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UFC on ESPN 5 predictions: ‘Covington vs Lawler’ undercard ‘Prelims’ preview - Pt. 1

UFC is bringing a pivotal Welterweight headliner to “The Garden State” for its latest and greatest fight card on ESPN. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC on ESPN 5 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

UFC Fight Night: Chookagian v Romero Borella Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

A former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) interim champion, Colby Covington, meets a former undisputed champion, Robbie Lawler, in UFC on ESPN 5’s main event in Newark, N.J., this Saturday (Aug. 3, 2019) evening. Meanwhile, 15 pounds south Jim Miller attempts to continue his resurgence against Clay Guida, while hard-nosed Brazilian Joaquim “Netto BJJ” Silva faces top prospect Nasrat Haqparast.

All six “Prelims” undercards bouts this weekend take place on ESPN; therefore, let’s check out the first half of the free line up.

125 lbs.: Lauren Murphy vs. Mara Romero Borella

Lauren Murphy — the former Invicta FC Bantamweight champion — went 1-3 in the Octagon before joining The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 26 as the No. 3-ranked seed. She fell to eventual tournament winner Nicco Montano in the opening round and has gone 1-1 since, most recently dropping a decision to cast mate Sijara Eubanks.

This will be her first bout in 14 months because of injury.

Italy’s Mara Romero Borella (12-5) extended her unbeaten streak to seven with an upset submission of Kalindra Faria in her UFC debut. She dropped a decision her next time out, but bounced back to hand Taila Santos her first professional loss in 16 fights.

“Kunoichici” will have a 2.5-inch reach advantage.

Murphy’s key issue is that her wrestling isn’t good enough for her to consistently implement her strong top control. I thought that the drop to Flyweight would make her more able to overpower her opponents, but that hasn’t proven the case. Against Borella, a capable grappler in her own right, I expect a lot of fruitless grinding against the fence.

Yay.

Whoever wins this, it’s going to be ugly and fan-unfriendly. Expect a slow-paced clinch battle where both have an argument for deserving the decision; Borella’s been more impressive in the Octagon, so I say she ekes it out.

Prediction: Borella via split decision

170 lbs.: Cole Williams vs. Claudio Silva

Cole Williams (11-1) enters UFC on a nine-fight win streak that dates back to 2009. Back in 2013, he competed on Bellator’s Fight Master series, racking up three victories before falling to Joe Riggs in the semifinals.

He replaces Ramazan Emeev, who ran into visa issues, on just over a week’s notice.

Claudio Silva (13-1) began his Octagon run with decisions over Brad Scott and Leon Edwards, only to miss the next 2.5 years with various injuries. He returned in May 2018 with a bonus-winning upset submission of Nordine Taleb, then scored a controversial armbar finish of Danny Roberts last March.

“Hannibal” has submitted eight professional opponents, four each by armbar and rear-naked choke.

Emeev would have been Silva’s first opponent to badly out-class him in the wrestling, which for my money would have gotten “Gorets” a comfortable victory. Williams, a decent all-arounder with no standout skills, will be a far easier assignment. The 35-year-old is a better striker than “Hannibal,” but so is everyone the Brazilian fights. Silva’s win condition is getting a takedown and I haven’t seen enough top-notch grappling from Williams to suggest that he can deny it.

Silva’s general ineptitude at everything but Brazilian jiu-jitsu will make it interesting while it lasts, and Williams does sit down enough on his shots to maybe ring Silva’s bell once or twice. That said, it’s essentially over as soon as it hits the mat.

Prediction: Silva via first-round submission

125 lbs.: Hannah Goldy vs. Miranda Granger

Hannah Goldy (5-0) went 3-1 as an amateur before debuting in 2016 with a decision over current Flyweight standout Gillian Robertson. Three more wins brought her to the Contender Series, where she outclassed Kali Robbins but did not earn an immediate contract.

She stands three inches shorter than Miranda Granger (6-0) at 5’4.”

“Danger” Granger won all five of her amateur bouts and quickly beat some notable names in the pros, including Invicta veteran Amy Montenegro and two-time Contender Series competitor Jamie Colleen. This set up a short at the vacant CFFC Strawweight title, which she won with a 41-second guillotine of Heloina Azevedo in May.

All but one of her six finishes have come in the first round.

This looks to be a fairly prototypical striker vs. grappler match up — Goldy has good takedown defense and Granger isn’t helpless on the feet, but each has a considerable edge in her area of expertise.

Unfortunately for Granger, Goldy’s better at getting and keeping it in her comfort zone.

Granger hasn’t proven herself to be an overpowering wrestler, generally doing her best work reactively, and is extremely straightforward on the feet. Like Robbins, this leaves her open to Goldy’s kicks and check hook. Unless Granger shows some dramatically improved takedown entries and cage cutting, Goldy spends 15 minutes pot-shotting off the back foot for a dominant victory.

Prediction: Goldy via unanimous decision

Three more UFC on ESPN 4 remain to preview and predict, including Antonina Shevchenko and Mickey Gall’s attempted rebounds. 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 5 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN “Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also air on ESPN at 3 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC on ESPN 5: “Covington vs. Lawler” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.