Two of the Octagon’s most storied strikers duke it out inside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., this Saturday (March 23, 2018) when Anthony Pettis moves up to Welterweight to face two-time title challenger Stephen Thompson. Earlier in the evening, Justin Willis looks to continue his rise against top wrestler Curtis Blaydes at Heavyweight and John Makdessi faces Jesus Pinedo in a cobbled-together Lightweight clash after both their respective opponents pulled out.
UFC Fight Night 148 will host six “Prelims” undercard bouts, the first three of which we preview and predicted the other day right here. Let’s finish it up, shall we?
145 lbs.: Bobby Moffett vs. Bryce Mitchell
Bobby Moffett (14-3) fell short in bids for RFA and LFA gold, dropping a decision to Raoni Barcelos and suffering a knockout loss to Thanh Le, respectively. Three consecutive wins, including a d’arce finish on “Contender Series,” brought him to the Octagon, where he defeated Chas Skelly in controversial fashion.
“The Wolfman” owns nine wins by submission, including five by d’arce.
Bryce Mitchell (10-0) — Team Daniel Cormier’s second Featherweight pick on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 28 — defeated Jay Cucciniello in the quarterfinals before tapping to teammate and eventual winner Brad Katona in the semifinals. He ultimately faced fellow semifinalist Tyler Diamond at the Finale, surviving a late surge to take a majority decision.
He has scored eight submissions of his own, five of them rear-naked chokes.
I really hope these two don’t decide to strike, because they could make for some terrific ground fighting. The key here may be the simple fact that Moffett is more comfortable, or at least more experienced, in the grind than Mitchell is. “The Wolfman” pushes a grueling pace that Mitchell seems unable to handle.
Seeing Mitchell fade late against both Katona and Diamond, I’m not confident he can keep up with Moffett’s grappling onslaught. “The Wolfman” wears down Mitchell before ultimately catching him in his favored d’arce late in the second or early in the third.
Prediction: Moffett via third-round submission
135 lbs.: Marlon Vera vs. Frankie Saenz
These two were supposed to fight at UFC 235 before Marlon Vera (14-5-1) got sick. I still have my original write up, so if it’s all the same, I’ll just use that.
Though “Chito’s” run on TUF: Latin America was cut short by illness and he lost his debut to Marco Beltran, four wins in his next five fights made him a legitimate contender at 135 pounds. His efforts hit a snag thanks to power punchers John Lineker and Douglas Andrade, though he’s since finished Wuliji Buren and TUF castmate Guido Cannetti.
He owns seven professional submission wins, including four by triangle or armbar.
Frankie Saenz (12-5) scored one of the biggest numerical upsets in recent UFC history with his 2015 decision over Iuri Alcantara and followed it up with a decision over Sirwan Kakai, but subsequently lost three straight. A controversial decision over Merab Dvalishvili got him back on track, and he followed that up by beating another of Vera’s castmates in Henry Briones.
He replaces the injured Thomas Almeida on one month’s notice.
As good as Vera is, his wrestling remains an Achilles’ heel he doesn’t seem poised to fix anytime soon. He’s been taken down at least once in all but two of his UFC fights, and he only had to deal with one cumulative attempt in that span. Saenz may not have much to offer outside of grit and decent takedowns, but that’s really all he needs here.
Vera’s options are keeping the fight at range, trying to exploit Saenz’s remarkably porous defensive wrestling, or attempting to catch a submission off of his back. The first one’s unlikely, considering that shorter men in Lineker and Andrade regularly worked their ways into the pocket, and Vera’s generally not a super capable offensive wrestler. That leaves his guard, which I believe Saenz can navigate for 15 minutes.
Prediction: Saenz via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Alexis Davis vs. Jennifer Maia
Alexis Davis (19-8) went 5-2 as a UFC Bantamweight before successfully debuting at 125 pounds with a decision over Liz Carmouche. This set up a bout with the rising Katlyn Chookagian, who narrowly edged Davis with her volume striking.
She has tapped five opponents with rear-naked chokes and three with armbars.
Jennifer Maia (15-5-1) defeated Vanessa Porto to win the Invicta Flyweight title in 2016, then defended it with decisions over Roxanne Modafferi and Agnieszka Niedzwiedz. She squared off with Liz Carmouche in her Octagon debut, struggling with “Girl-Rilla’s” wrestling en route to a decision loss.
She is two inches shorter than Davis and will give up four inches of reach.
Maia’s biggest problem is that she’s a five-round fighter stuck in three-round fights. Before she gets going, she’s easy to hit and especially easy to take down. Davis has the striking and grappling to do both, at least for the first two rounds, and she’s gritty enough to keep it close even when Maia gets into gear.
Davis really just needs to focus on her takedowns, which she hasn’t always done, but so long as she fights smart, she should be able to either finish Maia early or rack up enough time in dominant position to get the decision. I’ll be optimistic and pick the former.
Prediction: Davis via first-round submission
UFC Fight Night 148 features a killer main event, a Flyweight barnburner, and some TUF guys to round it out. See you Saturday, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 148 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+).