Sajik Arena in Busan, South Korea, hosts the final Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event of 2019 this Saturday morning (Dec. 21, 2019) when local hero Chan Sung “The Korean Zombie” Jung faces late replacement Frankie Edgar on ESPN+. Also in store are a pivotal Light Heavyweight clash between Volkan Oezdemir and fast-rising Aleksandar Rakic and the return of “The Korean Superboy,” Doo Ho Choi, against Canadian striker Charles Jourdain.
UFC Fight Night 165 features seven “Prelims” undercard bouts this time, all of which join the main card on ESPN+. Let’s begin!
125 lbs.: Alexandre Pantoja vs. Matt Schnell
An unsuccessful run on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 24 didn’t stop Alexandre Pantoja (21-4) from winning five of his first six Octagon bouts, the lone loss a competitive decision to Dustin Ortiz. This set up a clash against Deiveson Figueiredo, with whom Pantoja put together a brutal “Fight of the Night” that ended in a Figueiredo decision.
He’ll give up three inches of height and nearly as much reach to Matt Schnell (14-4).
Schnell struggled to an 0-2 Octagon start after his TUF 24 tenure, falling to Rob Font in a Bantamweight clash and Hector Sandoval upon his return to Flyweight. He has since racked up four consecutive victories, including upsets of Naoki Inoue and Jordan Espinoza.
“Danger” has dispatched eight opponents via submission.
I’ll readily admit to constantly underestimating Schnell, but putting faith in a guy is difficult when his recent wins generally come by either competitive decision or submission off of his back. Neither of those seem like wise courses of action against Pantoja, who figures to have a slight technical edge in most areas alongside the power to crack Schnell’s shaky chin.
Schnell will most likely need a finish, as I don’t see him mounting any sustained dominance in any area of the game. Considering that Jussier Formiga couldn’t submit “The Cannibal” and Figueiredo couldn’t knock him out, that doesn’t seem likely. Pantoja takes a comfortable decision.
Prediction: Pantoja via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Miranda Granger vs. Amanda Lemos
Miranda Granger (7-0) went 5-0 as an amateur before turning pro in 2017, ultimately claiming the Cage Fury Strawweight title with a 41-second guillotine choke of Heloisa Azevedo last May. Little more than two months later, she squared off with fellow unbeaten Hannah Goldy in her Octagon debut and swept her on the judges’ scorecards.
“Danger” has submitted five professional opponents and knocked out one, all of them in the first round.
Amanda Lemos (6-1-1) brought the Jungle Fight Bantamweight title into her Octagon debut, having knocked out Mayra Cantuaria in a rematch to claim it. Leslie Smith proved more than she could handle, however, putting “Amandinha” down with elbows midway through the second round.
This will be her first fight in two years due to a United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) suspension.
The annoying part about picking this fight is that if both women come in in peak condition, Lemos smokes Granger. The Brazilian is the more technical and powerful striker, but had a truly nightmarish style match up in the functionally indestructible Smith. Granger isn’t nearly as relentless or adept at draining opponents’ gas tanks, and she’s far less likely to just walk through the heat “Amandinha” can deliver.
Assuming that both will be in peak condition seems ill-advised, though. Lemos is coming off of a massive layoff and, even considering Smith’s debilitating attack, gassed worryingly early in that fight. Lemos dominates the first before losing steam and falling into an inescapable statistical hole.
Prediction: Granger via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Alateng Heili vs. Ryan Benoit
Alateng Heili (13-7-1) joined UFC in the midst of an 8-1-1 run, the loss coming to future RIZIN standout and Horiguchi-Slayer Kai Asakura. His Octagon debut with Batgerel Danaa wound up being a bloody war, from which Alateng walked away with a victory and a “Fight of the Night” bonus.
He’ll give up two inches of reach.
Ryan Benoit (10-5) has alternated losses and wins in his Octagon career, starting with a “Fight of the Night” loss to Josh Sampo and a subsequent upset knockout of Sergio Pettis. In his last appearance, he knocked out Ashkan Mokhtarian with a third-round head kick back in Nov. 2017.
Eight of his nine professional stoppage wins have come courtesy of knockout.
Following Benoit has been an exercise in frustration. The man clearly has bonkers power for his size and has displayed some scrambling chops, but he failed to meaningfully improve his striking or wrestling technique during his Octagon tenure. While there’s every chance that he made some much-needed adjustments during his time on the sidelines, I can only analyze what I’ve seen.
And what I’ve seen will have some issues.
Alateng has the wrestling chops to exploit Benoit’s porous takedown defense and, though maddeningly inactive on the feet, is a sufficiently adept counter-puncher to find the mark with his piston right cross when Benoit overextends. There are three reasonably possible outcomes: Alateng catches Benoit cold with a counter right, Benoit knocks him out with a big swing, or Alateng uses his wrestling to cruise to victory. Two out of three ain’t bad.
Prediction: Alateng via unanimous decision
Four more UFC Fight Night 165 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, including a clash of elite Bantamweight up-and-comers, the latest from Ciryl Gane, and the debut of a Lightweight knockout artist from “Contender Series.”
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 165 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 2 a.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also stream on ESPN+ at 5 a.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Night 165: “Edgar vs. Korean Zombie” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.