The Strawweight queen, “Thug” Rose Namajunas, heads to hostile territory in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this Saturday (May 11, 2019), looking for her second title defense against Jessica Andrade in UFC 237’s pay-per-view (PPV) main event. Meanwhile, 70 pounds north, Jared Cannonier looks to continue his resurgence against Anderson Silva, while Jose Aldo attempts to make it three straight knockouts at the expense of Alexander Volkanovski.
UFC 237 features eight “Prelims” undercard bouts this time, including a batch on Fight Pass for the first time in what feels like forever. Let’s dig in!
155 lbs.: Clay Guida vs. B.J. Penn
The Featherweight run for Clay Guida (34-18) ended on a 2-4 skid that saw him stopped four times, including a brutal knee knockout from Brian Ortega. He started strong, upsetting Erik Koch and Joe Lauzon, but fell victim to Charles Oliveira’s lethal guillotine at UFC 225.
This will be his first fight in 11 months and just his second since 2017.
It’s now been more than eight years since B.J. Penn (16-13-2) last scored a victory, a 2010 knockout of Matt Hughes in their rubber match. His six-fight losing streak most recently saw him submitted for the first time in his mixed martial arts (MMA) career courtesy of a Ryan Hall heel hook (highlights).
He has knocked out seven pro opponents and submitted another six.
Penn really shouldn’t be competing, both for his inability to win a fight and the various domestic abuse allegations swirling around him (details). He’s a relic at this point, still possessing sharp boxing and quality groundwork, but held back by both mileage and infamously lax work ethic.
Guida’s no spring chicken himself, but that motor’s as strong as ever, and that’s really all he needs.
There was a time when Penn would have torched Guida the way he dismantled Diego Sanchez, shutting down his frenetic wrestling and pummeling him with straight rights. That time, unfortunately, was around a decade ago. Guida’s relentlessness and endless gas tank will wear down Penn sometime early in the second round, and from there it’s smooth sailing.
Prediction: Guida via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Warlley Alves vs. Sergio Moraes
Warlley Alves (12-3) hit the ground running after his The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Brazil” run, winning four straight and handing Colby Covington his only loss in the process. He rebounded from consecutive losses to Bryan Barberena and Kamaru Usman with two straight wins, only to suffer an upset knockout loss to James Krause in Lincoln, Neb., in Aug. 2018.
Four of his six submission wins have come via guillotine.
Sergio Moraes (14-4-1) put together an impressive 8-1-1 run after falling short on TUF: “Brazil,” including a one-sided jiu-jitsu clinic against Ben Saunders that resulted in “The Panther’s” first submission win since 2013. He couldn’t do the same to the resurgent Anthony Rocco Martin, who shut down the Brazilian’s grappling on his way to a decision victory.
He stands one inch taller than Alves at 6’0.”
I’m honestly a massive bleeding heart about prospects failing to live up to their potential; as you’d imagine, following Alves’ career has not been fun. He’s still a physical beast with a killer guillotine, but he’s never looked as impressive as he did against Marcio “Lyoto” in his Octagon debut.
He’s looked slow in recent efforts, his stand up lacking power and failing to develop since that victory.
Luckily for him, Moraes doesn’t have the wrestling to consistently take him down and is the lesser brawler on the feet. Moraes will give Alves the close-quarters engagements he wants, but just doesn’t have the firepower to win them. Alves sprawls-and-brawls his way to a comfortable decision win.
Prediction: Alves via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Raoni Barcelos vs. Carlos Huachin
Raoni Barcelos (13-1) boxed up Bobby Moffett for the RFA Featherweight title in 2016, then knocked out Dan Moret in his first title defense. Injury delayed his Octagon debut until last year, where he blasted Kurt Holobaugh in a “Fight of the Night” and followed that up by submitting Chris Gutierrez on the TUF 28 Finale.
Seven of his professional wins have come by form of knockout.
Carlos Huachin (10-3-2) — the latest Peruvian prospect out of the Pitbull Martial Arts Center that gave us Jesus Pinedo and Claudio Puelles — enters the Octagon on a seven-fight unbeaten streak. He has never gone the distance in victory, knocking out eight foes and submitting another two.
He replaces Said Nurmagomedov on less than two weeks’ notice.
The original match up here was a delightfully intriguing clash of styles, pitting Barcelos’ slick counter-punching against Nurmagomedov’s spinning onslaught. This one’s still fun, but quite a bit more one-sided. Huachin is an insanely aggressive combination puncher boasting impressive power and volume, but Barcelos is both the best boxer and best wrestler he’s ever dealt with.
Barcelos is a terrific, well-rounded fighter with the misfortune of being in a ludicrously stacked division. Huachin is hopping right into the deep end, and though he hits hard enough to score the upset, Barcelos has him outclassed. The Brazilian holds his own on the feet, answering Huachin’s onslaught with sharp counters until he feels ready to wrestle and lock up the submission.
Prediction: Barcelos via first-round submission
135 lbs.: Talita Bernardo vs. Melissa Gatto
Talita Bernardo (6-3) was thrown right into the deep end in the Octagon, facing and losing to Marion Reneau and Irene Aldana in her first two appearances. She finally got in the UFC win column in Oct. 2018, out-striking and out-wrestling Sarah Moras in Moncton.
All four of her submission wins have come in the first round.
Brazil’s Melissa Gatto (6-0-2) has submitted four opponents in her professional career, all of them in the first round. In her most recent effort, she returned to Cyborg Santos’ “Naçao Cyborg” promotion and submitted 9-2 Karolline Rosa with a kimura/triangle combination.
She steps in for the injured Jessica Rose-Clark on a month’s notice.
Gatto’s UFC prognosis is not great. The Brazilian’s wrestling is awful, her striking developing-but-mediocre; so far, all she’s shown is a decent triangle/armbar series off of her back. Bernardo is just flat-out better than her everywhere, and though prospects I write off have a bad habit of overachieving in their Octagon debuts, I’ll stand by that statement.
Bernardo is the better striker and can get Gatto to the mat essentially whenever she wants. As good as Gatto’s guard is, she’s been neutralized for long stretches of time by solid top control, which Bernardo can offer in spades. In short, Bernardo dominates wherever she wants en route to an authoritative decision victory.
Prediction: Bernardo via unanimous decision
Four more UFC 237 “Prelims” bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, including the latest from “Little Nog” in the featured undercard match. Same time as always, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 237 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 237: “Namajunas vs. Andrade” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.