This Saturday (March 9, 2019), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) travels to Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan., for UFC Fight Night 146 on ESPN+ (watch on ESPN+ here!). For an event in the Midwest with a fairly lackluster main event, there’s some solid talent scattered throughout the card. Perhaps more than talent, all of the main card bouts are well-matched, making for intriguing match ups that could swing in either direction. 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 other ESPN+ main card bouts.
Welterweight: Tim Means vs. Niko Price
Best Win for Means? Alex Garcia For Price? Randy Brown
Current Streak: One win for Means, one loss for Price
X-Factor: Price’s incredible opportunism
How these two match up: This is the best bet for “Fight of the Night.”
Means is a straight up scrapper. The lanky “Dirty Bird” stalks opponents around the cage, manages distance well, and is exceptionally nasty with his counter cross and elbow strikes. In addition, Means helps his case by keeping a high output. There are certainly similarities between Means and Price, who is similarly aggressive, more powerful, and definitely unafraid of a slugfest. Price is perhaps best known for his nearly unique ability to find openings to finish, such as his back fist knockout from his back while in a foot lock position.
This is a close fight with clear reasons to pick either man. Means has a great deal of experience, both inside the Octagon and out, as well as a rangier build. However, Price is six years younger and certainly the more volatile finisher.
Ultimately though, consistency is the deciding factor for me. Means knows his style, where he wants to be, and how he wins fights. Price seems to let his opponent dictate the pace, counting on that opportunism to find his way to a win. That works often enough to make him very dangerous, but Means is a difficult man to stop.
Prediction: Means via decision
Heavyweight: Blagoy Ivanov vs. Ben Rothwell
Best Win for Ivanov? Shawn Jordan For Rothwell? Alistair Overeem
Current Streak: One single loss to Junior dos Santos for each man
X-Factor: Rothwell’s varying state of fitness
How these two match up: A pair of big ole’ Heavyweights will meet in the Octagon, meaning we’re probably going to see a brutal knockout or miserable slog.
Ivanov has a weird game, a he does not fight like one would expect of a decorated Sambo specialist. Though his takedowns are a strength, they’re not particularly elite, an issue we saw when dos Santos stuffed his few attempts. In fact, he doesn’t seem to try to wrestle all that often, preferring to counter along the fence.
Rothwell is a strange man himself. Known for his deceptive speed, herky-jerky movement, and monstrous knockout power, Rothwell has a ton of tricks up his sleeve. Also worth mentioning is Rothwell’s underrated submission game, which was enough to submit Josh Barnett with a 10-finger guillotine choke.
My pick depends entirely on what type of shape Ben Rothwell shows up in. The man’s nickname is “Big,” and he’s been away from the cage for well over two years. If he shows up with a decent amount of muscle and no serious belly, I expect Rothwell’s athleticism and tricks to land the better shots. If his body bears resemblance to Roy Nelson’s infamous belly, Rothwell is probably going to gas three minutes into the fight and lose a terribly boring decision.
I wish this post aired after weigh-in day, which is when I will make my final decision. Until then, though ...
Prediction: Ben Rothwell via knockout
Lightweight: Beneil Dariush vs. Drew Dober
Best Win for Dariush? Michael Johnson For Dober? Frank Camacho
Current Streak: One win for Dariush, three for Dober
X-Factor: Dariush’s conditioning
How these two match up: This should be fun.
Dariush fights with a level of aggression unmatched by most. On his feet, the Southpaw slugs forward with brutal power kicks and left hands. All those power strikes are dangerous, but they tend to distract from the fact that Dariush is one of the very best grapplers at 155 pounds.
Dober’s UFC career began with struggle, but he’s really turned it around, winning five of his last six bouts across the previous three years. He’s best known for his high-volume Muay Thai, but Dober is willing to wrestle when needed and is something of a generalist.
To be frank, Dober’s primary strategy in this match up should revolve around surviving the first round. In those opening five minutes, Dariush is legitimately one of the nastiest men on the roster: he heaves massive power shots and is always looking to strangle. Unless a perfect counter connects, Dober is unlikely to win the opening frame.
If he can survive it, though? Dober is a surprising big, strong Lightweight and throws strikes endlessly. Dariush, meanwhile, seems to fall victim to his own aggression, slowing down dramatically if the early finish does not emerge. If Dober can see the latter half of this fight, he’s very likely to do well, perhaps even well enough to knock his foe out.
Outlasting Dariush is clearly Dober’s path to victory, but that’s not an easy trail to walk.
Prediction: Dariush via submission
Middleweight: Tim Boetsch vs. Omari Akhmedov
Best Win for Boetsch? Yushin Okami For Akhmedov? Abdul Razak Alhassan
Current Streak: One loss for “The Barbarian,” two wins and a draw for Akhmedov
X-Factor: Boetsch’s takedown defense
How these two match up: It’s a bit funny to me that Boetsch and Ben Rothwell are competing on the same card. Aside from the obvious physical resemblance, there are some fighting similarities as well. Both men pack considerable power behind their punches, surprising speed and effective kicks, and past inconsistency when it comes to conditioning and takedown defense.
Akhmedov is not particularly similar to Ivanov, though. Despite sharing a Sambo background and suffix with the Bulgarian Heavyweight, Akhmedov is very straight forward in his goals. Pushing forward behind wide hooks, Akhmedov looks to overpower his foe with punches or double leg takedowns.
Will it work against Tim Boetsch?
The answer is a resounding maybe. Boetsch has certainly been physically dominated and out-wrestled in the past — odd considering his own physicality. At the same time, Boetsch has also shucked off wrestlers, ruined their gas tanks with snap kicks, and then clubbed them into unconsciousness from the phone booth range.
Both outcomes are easy to visualize, but I’ll side with the experience and Middleweight resume of “The Barbarian,” who should take over late when Akhmedov’s power-based style drains his own gas tank.
Prediction: Tim Boetsch via decision
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver live UFC Fight Night 146 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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