The Strawweight division’s former empress looks to make her case for another crack at the title this Saturday (Oct. 12, 2019) when Joanna Jedrzejczyk meets Michelle Waterson in inside Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., headlining the latest installment of UFC on ESPN+. UFC Fight Night 161 also features a Featherweight crossroads fight between Cub Swanson and Kron Gracie, as well as the return of Mackenzie Dern against Brazilian prospect Amanda Ribas.
Four more UFC Fight Night 161 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict (check out the first batch here), all of which have highlight-reel potential. On we go!
170 lbs.: Niko Price vs. James Vick
Niko Price (13-3) roared off to a 4-1 (1 NC) UFC start, earning two “Performance of the Night” bonuses along the way, before falling to Abdul Razzak Alhassan in 43 seconds. “The Hybrid” got back on track with a comeback knockout of Tim Means, earning another bonus in doing so, but couldn’t halt the rise of Geoff Neal in their wild UFC 240 battle.
“The Texecutioner” has gone the distance just once in his professional career, knocking out nine.
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15 run for James Vick (13-4) ended in the semifinals, but that didn’t stop him from winning nine of his first 10 Octagon bouts and securing himself a spot in the rankings. His first-ever headlining appearance saw Justin Gaethje crumple him in 87 seconds, and he’s since dropped additional bouts to Paul Felder and Dan Hooker.
Despite moving up in weight for this fight, he’s the taller man by three inches.
Put these two in headgear and 16-ounce gloves and Vick takes it any day of the week. Price’s striking technique has yet to properly develop, and the 6’3” Vick can be difficult to wrangle once he gets a rhythm going. Unfortunately, Vick’s lack of a chin and tendency to back straight up with his hands down bode ill against an aggressive slugger like Price, especially when the two have
Unless Vick’s durability issues were a byproduct of the weight cut, I expect this to look like Price’s battle with Tim Means. Vick makes him look silly for several minutes before Price’s right hand finds the mark for a decisive finish.
Prediction: Price via first-round knockout
205 lbs.: Ryan Spann vs. Devin Clark
Though Ryan Spann’s (16-5) first bid for “Contender Series” glory didn’t quite go as planned thanks to Karl Roberson’s elbows, a trio of LFA victories and a 26-second stoppage in his return to Dana White’s show earned him a spot in the Octagon regardless. After taking a decision over Luis Henrique in his debut, “Superman” made it 2-0 with a knockout of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in Rio de Janeiro.
Nine of his 10 submission victories have come in the first round.
The second man to graduate to UFC from Dana White’s “Lookin’ for a Fight,” Devin Clark (10-3) stumbled out of the gate with a stoppage loss to Alex Nicholson before going on to win four of his next six. His most recent effort saw him take on prospect Darko Stosic in Sweden, where he outworked his man to take home a unanimous decision.
He stands five inches shorter than Spann and will give up nearly seven inches of reach.
The parallels between Spann and Clark — both top athletes who’ve struggled to live up to their potential — are obvious. I definitely think Spann’s done more to turn the corner, though because his historically questionable cardio held up well against Henrique and he’s generally shown more to his game than the wrestle-happy Clark.
Clark can definitely win this if, as against Mike Rodriguez, he commits to just suffocating Spann against the fence any time “Superman” tries to open up. Spann’s a fair bit faster than “Slo-Mike,” however, and it’s hard to see Clark’s shaky jaw standing up to enough punishment to get the slog rolling. Spann clips him early and racks up yet another first-round submission once “Brown Bear” hits the ground.
Prediction: Spann via first-round submission
125 lbs.: Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Tim Elliott
Brazil’s Deiveson Figueiredo (16-1) lived up to his nickname, “God of War,” with knockouts in three of his first four Octagon victories, becoming the first man to stop the super-tough John Moraga with strikes in the process. He came up short against fellow Brazilian Jussier Formiga in March, but bounced back with a “Fight of the Night” decision over Alexandre Pantoja four months later.
He has knocked out eight professional opponents and submitted another five.
After claiming the Titan FC Flyweight title upon his UFC release, Tim Elliott (15-8-1) punched his ticket back to the Octagon by running the table on TUF 24. He’s gone 2-2 in his current run, starting with a competitive decision loss to Demetrius Johnson and most recently featuring a bonus-winning submission of Mark De La Rosa.
This will be his first fight in nearly two years.
Elliott is a walking counterpoint to the annoyingly persistent mindset that Flyweights are boring and we have all suffered from his long absence. I just don’t think he can fight the way he does against the division’s scariest puncher. Elliott tends to lead with his face at times, relying on his inhuman pace and toughness to keep him afloat, and that’s more than a little ill-advised considering what we’ve seen “Deus de Guerra” do to people once he finds their chins.
While Elliott is the stronger wrestler of the two and has a shot at victory if he can keep the Brazilian on his back, but Figueiredo has managed to scramble his way out from beneath essentially everyone besides Formiga. Figueiredo tears him up on the feet en route to ending Elliott’s 10-year drought of (technical) knockout losses.
Prediction: Figueiredo via second-round (technical) knockout
170 lbs.: Max Griffin vs. Alex Morono
Max Griffin (15-6) opened his Octagon career 1-2 with losses to division standouts Colby Covington and Elizeu Zaleski, earning “Fight of the Night” against the latter, before scoring a breakout upset win of Mike Perry. Consecutive decision defeats to Curtis Millender and Thiago Alves followed, though “Max Pain” managed to right the ship with a narrow decision over rival Zelim Imadaev.
Seven of his nine stoppage victories have come by form of knockout.
Alex Morono (16-5) choked out Derrick Krantz for the Legacy Welterweight Championship before gritting his way to victory over Kyle Noke and James Moontasri in his first two Octagon appearances. A 1-2 (1 NC) skid followed, though he enters the cage this Saturday on the heels of two consecutive victories.
He’ll give up four inches of reach to Griffin.
Nobody can question Morono’s grit and he’s got a sneakily good Brazilian jiu-jitsu game when he bothers to use it. Unfortunately, he’s usually happy to just straighten his arms and hurl heat; he’s yet to land a single official takedown in the Octagon despite his skill on the ground. That’s fine when you’re dealing with willing sluggers like Song Kenan or fragile opposition like Zak Ottow, not against a skilled striker with superior firepower.
Griffin’s the more adept of the two in firefights and should have the wrestling to dictate where the fight takes place. Morono comes out headhunting as always, but Griffin recreates his effort against Perry, patiently taking Morono apart from the outside.
Prediction: Griffin via unanimous decision
Crossroads fights always have a bit of intrigue and UFC Fight Night 161’s ESPN+ main card has a nice little collection. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 161 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also stream on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET.
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