This Saturday (Feb. 23, 2019), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) travels to 02 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic, for UFC Fight Night 145 on ESPN+ (click here to watch!). In general, random “Fight Night” events in European countries are not known for their elite talent, and that’s true enough here. The silver lining, at least, is that there are a few non-stop action fighters littered throughout the card. Most important, the headliner is Thiago Santos, who has never been in a boring fight. Before “Marreta” is throwing flipping Capoeira kicks, there are some decent scraps on the main card. Remember: Later in the week, MMAmania.com’s Jesse Holland will preview and predict the main- and co-main events. For now, let’s take a look at these main card bouts.
Light Heavyweight: Gian Villante vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk
Best Win for Villante? Corey Anderson For Oleksiejczuk? Khalil Rountree (though it was overturned for a failed drug test)
Current Streak: A win for Villante, a “No Contest” for Oleksiejczuk
X-Factor: Villante’s inconsistency
How these two match up: This could be a lot of fun or truly miserable.
Villante is among the biggest mismatches of athleticism and skill on the roster. He’s a full-sized Heavyweight with legitimate knockout power and great defensive wrestling — how is he so mediocre? The answer seems to be conditioning, as Villante falls apart rather quickly inside the cage.
Meanwhile, Oleksiejczuk introduced himself to UFC with a dominant victory as a 3:1 underdog, but a failed drug test really ruined the impact of a great performance. Nevertheless, in that win, the 23-year-old Pole showed a well-rounded and technical game for 15 straight minutes.
For the sake of the Light Heavyweight division, we all need Oleksiejczuk to pull through here. Villante has been in UFC for six years and 14 fights, but built up approximately zero momentum. His last four fights resulted in sloppy split-decisions. At one point, his corner screamed at him to start trying, but nothing happened.
Luckily, Oleksiejczuk should win. It’s been a while since Villante knocked out anyone, and his gas tank is not made to win decisions against active young fighters. Simply put, Oleksiejczuk is the more technical man and should be able to maintain a better output across three rounds.
Prediction: Oleksiejczuk via decision
Women’s Flyweight: Liz Carmouche vs. Lucie Pudilova
Best Win for Carmouche? Valentina Shevchenko (a controversial doctor stoppage, but still!) For Pudilova? Ji Yeon Kim
Current Streak: A win for Carmouche, a single defeat for Pudilova
X-Factor: Pudilova’s takedown defense
How these two match up: Carmouche is one of her division’s top contenders, and she’s really grown as a fighter over the past few years. Physically, she’s an odd combination of immense strength, but limited athleticism. As a result, her clinch wrestling is a serious threat, but even with considerable improvement her kickboxing remains awkward.
Pudilova, alternatively, is a definite scrapper. There’s a real argument for the Czech athlete to have a 4-0 record rather than 2-2, as both of her losses were extremely close decisions. Pudilova maintains a seriously high volume of strikes, and there’s definite power in the young athlete’s hands.
This fight is easy to predict, though it may end up up in the air until the final bell. Carmouche is the stronger woman and better wrestler, meaning she’ll probably be able to land the takedown when needed and control for long periods of time. At the same time, Carmouche does seem to make odd choices and neglect to wrestle for long periods of time. Pudilova has the power to make her pay for that bad habit.
Prediction: Carmouche via decision
Bantamweight: John Dodson vs. Petr Yan
Best Win for Dodson? T.J. Dillashaw For Yan? Douglas Silva de Andrade
Current Streak: One loss for Dodson, three UFC wins for Yan
X-Factor: Dodson’s power
How these two match up: As of late, Dodson’s approach to fighting has been strange. A few years back, Dodson was a top contender at 125 pounds, known for his body punching, monstrous left hand, and insane speed. A few pounds heavier as a Bantamweight, Dodson never seems to plant his feet, running circles around the ring and literally sprinting at opponents with an angled left hand.
He’s still a ranked fighter, but Dodson is no longer a member of the elite.
Yan is one of the sport’s most impressive prospects, scoring a trio of dominant victories in 2018. The 26-year-old Russian is a seriously aggressive athlete, putting powerful punches in bunches on opponents while maintaining a very tight defensive guard. Yan is an all-action fighter, and he’s not going to allow Dodson to coast.
Dodson has to plant his feet to win this fight. If he moves constantly and avoids exchanges, Yan will chase him around all night, land decent shots, and at the very least, win a decision. If Dodson were to employ the anti-Lineker game plan of hard left kicks to the gut and real counter punches, he stands a much better chance of hurting Yan enough to earn his respect and slow his offense.
Sadly, I cannot trust Dodson to halt his over-reliance on movement. Even if I did, I would still probably favor Yan’s tight defense and high-volume over Dodson’s blinding speed.
Prediction: Yan via decision
Light Heavyweight: Magomed Ankalaev vs. Klidson Farias
Best Win for Ankalaev? Wagner Prado For Farias? Viktor Nemkov
Current Streak: A UFC win for Ankalaev, six regional wins for Farias
X-Factor: Ankalaev’s submission defense
How these two match up: If you’re willing to overlook his buzzer-beater submission loss to Paul Craig and relationship with a notorious dictator, Ankalaev is a damn good prospect. The Russian is a master of sport in Sambo, which translates into the cage as a fantastic wrestling base with some serious power on his feet as well.
Facing off with the dangerous Russian will be Brazilian newcomer Farias, a slick grappler who has competed at Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight. All of the wins on Farias’ current streak came via tapout.
Ankalaev has the wrestling prowess to dictate where the fight take place, which is critically important against the more dangerous submission fighter. For the majority of three rounds, Ankalaev smashed Craig on the mat, but the end result was that sudden triangle choke. Really, this fight is a chance for Ankalaev to correct that mistake.
Farias is a welcome addition to the 205-pound roster, but Ankalaev seems the better prospect at a similar point in their careers.
Prediction: Ankalaev via technical knockout
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver live UFC Fight Night 145 results on fight night, which is as good a place as any to talk about all the action inside the Octagon, as well as what you’ve got riding on the sportsbook.
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