Two of the sport’s most fearsome strikers will duke it out this Saturday night (June 29, 2019) inside Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn., when former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight champion, Junior dos Santos, locks horns with the destructive Francis Ngannou. The power-punching pair headline UFC on ESPN 3, which also features a Flyweight No. 1 contender eliminator match between Joseph Benavidez and Jussier Formiga, as well as a Welterweight crossroads fight between Demian Maia and the surging Anthony Rocco Martin.
But, before we worry about main card action, UFC on ESPN 3 will feature seven “Prelims” undercard bouts, also airing exclusively on ESPN, and we’re going to start by breaking down the first four.
Let’s get to work!
205 lbs.: Justin Ledet vs. Dalcha Lungiambula
Justin Ledet (8-2) — who spent almost four years away from the sport in amateur boxing — got off to a perfect (3-0) Octagon start as a Heavyweight before a failed United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) test briefly forced him to the sidelines for a few months (details). He dropped to 205 pounds upon his return, where he’s dropped a one-sided decision to Aleksandar Rakic and suffered a 15-second knockout loss to Johnny Walker.
“El Blanco stands six inches taller than Dalcha Lungiambula (9-1) at 6’4.”
“Champion Dalcha” claimed the EFC Light Heavyweight title in 2016, then successfully defended it with a pair of knockout victories. He proceeded to move up to 265 pounds to challenge Heavyweight champion Andrew van Zyl, whom he defeated by split decision despite giving up more than 40 pounds.
He owns four wins via (technical) knockout and one other by submission.
Lungiambula is definitely the most intriguing of the myriad double champs entering the Octagon recently. A judo black belt with fast, powerful hands, he’s both entertaining and rapidly improving. He’s also, unfortunately, undersized for the division, standing 5’10” and regularly weighing in comfortably below the 205-pound limit.
Not the best issue to have against a rangy boxer with a great jab.
Lungiambula should have plenty of early success considering the issues Ledet had with Rakic’s wrestling. The need to shoot from long range and Lungiambula’s cardio troubles could betray him before long, though, and while I’m pulling for “Champion Dalcha,” I see Ledet taking control and pot-shotting at range to win the latter two rounds.
Prediction: Ledet via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Jared Gordon vs. Dan Moret
Jared Gordon (14-3) — a former Cage Fury champion — announced his UFC arrival with impressive victories over Michel Quinones and Hacran Dias, only to run afoul of Diego Ferreira his next time out and suffer a technical knockout loss. Ten months later, he returned to action in a brutal “Fight of the Night” against Joaquin “Neto BJJ” Silva, who knocked out Gordon midway through the third round.
He’ll give up three inches of height and five inches of reach to “The Hitman.”
Dan Moret (13-5) ran into multiple future UFC competitors during his time on the regional circuit, falling to Luke Sanders, Bobby Moffett, and Raoni Barcelos under the RFA banner. He’s yet to taste victory in the Octagon, suffering a knockout loss to Gilbert Burns in his promotional debut and dropping a unanimous decision to Alex White in March.
“The Hitman” has submitted eight professional foes and knocked out one other.
This honestly feels pretty straightforward. Moret needs to consistently hit takedowns to be effective, but is going up against a bigger, stronger wrestler who can easily exploit “The Hitman’s” leaky wrestling defense. Worse, Gordon can control the striking through sheer volume, and though he’s coming off a pair of stoppage losses, Moret lacks the power to make it three.
Frankly, I expect Gordon to just bulldoze Moret with pressure and consistent takedowns. He wears down Moretwith his customary pressure before ultimately putting him away with ground-and-pound.
Prediction: Gordon via third-round technical knockout
115 lbs.: Emily Whitmire vs. Amanda Ribas
Emily Whitmire (4-2) went 1-1 on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 26, tapping Christina Marks in the opening round before falling to Roxanne Modafferi in the quarterfinals. Though she tapped to Gillian Robertson in her Octagon debut, “Spitfire” has since beaten Jamie Moyle by decision and choked out unbeaten Alexandra Albu in 61 seconds.
She stands one inch taller than Amanda Ribas (6-1) at 5’5.”
Ribas went undefeated (2-0) as an amateur and stopped four of her first five pro opponents, earning a shot at the Jungle Fight Strawweight title. Though she fell short against Polyana Viana, she rebounded six months later with a technical knockout to win the Max Fight Flyweight belt.
This will be her first fight in just more than three years thanks to a USADA violation (details).
Unless Ribas has made massive strides during her time away, the game has passed her by. Her most recent bout had all the hallmarks of early women’s mixed martial arts (MMA): head-and-arm throws, bolt-upright striking, robotic punches. Whitmire figures to have the edge just about everywhere, particularly in the wrestling.
Ribas has some dangerous ground-and-pound, but she’d need to get on top to use it, and I don’t see that happening — Whitmire cruises to victory with effective top control.
Prediction: Whitmire via unanimous decision
265 lbs.: Maurice Greene vs. Junior Albini
Maurice Greene (7-2) was among the largest personalities on TUF 28, but fell to rival and eventual tournament winner Juan Espino Dieppa in the semifinals. “The Crochet Boss” found greater success in the Octagon itself, tapping Michel Batista and avenging a loss to Jeff Hughes via split decision.
He stands four inches taller than Junior Albini (14-5) and will have an eight-inch reach advantage.
Albini boasted 10 first-round stoppage wins heading into his Octagon debut and swiftly made it 11, knocking out Timothy Johnson to earn “Performance of the Night.” He has yet to taste victory since, dropping a decision to Andrei Arlovski, tapping to Alexey Oleinik, and suffering a head kick knockout against Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
He has knocked out and submitted six foes apiece.
Well, I think it’s safe to say that Albini didn’t pan out quite as expected. The big Brazilian constantly finds ways to lose seemingly winnable fights, whether through poor game-planning or an unwillingness to let those heavy hands go. Greene’s superior consistency would be enough for me to pick him even without the edges in length and height.
I just have far more faith in Greene’s ability to execute than vice-versa. “The Crochet Boss” uses his massive reach advantage to pick apart Albini at range and take home either a late stoppage or a wide decision.
Prediction: Greene via unanimous decision
That’s enough to get us started.
Three more UFC on ESPN 3 fights remain to preview and predict, headlined by an intriguing clash of Bantamweight prospects. Same time as always, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on ESPN 3 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN “Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also air on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET.
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