Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., hosts a Welterweight uncivil war this Saturday (Aug. 3, 2019) when former teammates Colby Covington and Robbie Lawler duke it out with a potential crack at 170-pound champion Kamaru Usman on the line. UFC on ESPN 5 will also see a throwback fight between grizzled veterans Jim Miller and Clay Guida, as well as a clash of rising Lightweights in Joaquim Silva and Nasrat Haqparast.
Three more UFC on ESPN 5 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to be examined (check out the first batch here), so let’s not delay.
170 lbs.: Mickey Gall vs. Salim Touahri
Mickey Gall (5-2) dispatched Mike Jackson in 45 seconds to win the C.M. Punk Sweepstakes, then defeated the former WWE star with similar ease seven months later. He has since alternated victories and defeats, submissions of Sage Northcutt and George Sullivan offset by losses to Randy Brown and, most recently, Diego Sanchez.
He steps in for the injured Zelim Imadaev on less than one month’s notice.
Salim Touahri (10-3) brought a five-fight win streak into his short-notice UFC debut against Warlley Alves, who overpowered the Pole over 15 minutes to take a unanimous decision. Injury kept “Grizzly” out of action for the next 14 months, after which he fell to Keita Nakamura by narrow split decision.
He stands four inches shorter than Gall at 5’10” and will give up two inches of reach.
This looks to be a make-or-break fight for Gall — Touahri’s basic, but he hits hard and he’s a pain to take down. Neither Alves, a physical beast, nor Nakamura, a highly adept grappler, were able to consistently bring down or control “Grizzly.”
Basically, Gall needs to prove that he has more than just decent wrestling and a sick rear-naked choke to win this. After six UFC fights and a loss to what’s left of Diego Sanchez, I’m not sure he does. Though he could very well have improved since that “Nightmare” defeat, his consistently-limited arsenal makes it hard to have faith in him. Touahri sprawls-and-brawls to an increasingly one-sided victory.
Prediction: Touahri via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Antonina Shevchenko vs. Lucie Pudilova
Antonina Shevchenko (7-1) — sister of champion Valentina Shevchenko — followed up her dominant “Contender Series” victory with a decision over Korean bruiser Ji Yeon Kim in her Octagon debut. Five months later, she returned to action against Roxanne Modafferi, who defied lopsided odds to grind out a split decision in St. Petersburg. The 34-year-old
“Panther” is nine years older than Pudilova.
Lucia Pudilova (8-4) got a shot at revenge against Lina Lansberg in her first UFC appearance, but wound up on the wrong side of a decision despite inflicting some serious damage to “The Elbow Queen’s” eye. She got back on track with decisions over Ji Yeon Kim and Sarah Moras, though she subsequently came up short against Irene Aldana and Liz Carmouche.
She has knocked out and submitted two foes apiece.
Pudilova — though better than her 2-3 Octagon record would suggest — looks to be a safe bounce-back opponent for Shevchenko. The Czech veteran has shown neither the inclination nor ability to consistently hunt for takedowns, and for all of Shevchenko’s struggles on the mat, she outclasses most of the division on the feet.
At 34 years old, it’s highly unlikely that Shevchenko can develop the underrated wrestling that’s the key to her sister’s success. Against a willing striker, though, she can still shine. Powerful clinch work carries her to victory.
Prediction: Shevchenko via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Jordan Espinosa vs. Matt Schnell
An 83-second submission of Nick Urso wasn’t enough to earn Jordan Espinosa (14-5) a contract in his first “Contender Series” bid, but he returned to the show a year later to knockout Rilley Dutro and secure a place in the Octagon. He successfully debuted this past March with a decision over TUF veteran Eric Shelton for his fifth consecutive victory.
Four of his seven professional stoppages have come by d’arce choke.
Matt Schnell (13-4) brought a seven-fight win streak into TUF 24, where he submitted Matthew Rizzo before falling to Tim Elliott in the quarterfinals. Though he started his UFC career winless (0-2), he has since won three straight, including a triangle finish of Louis Smolka in March.
He stands two inches taller than Espinosa, but will give up one inch of reach.
Espinosa’s greatest weakness has historically been his cardio, which led me to pick against him in his UFC debut. Instead, he held his own for all 15 minutes against a real scrapper in Shelton. Without that handicap, he’s a handful for most of the division, Schnell included.
Schnell is the lesser wrestler of the two and his historical issues with punch resistance suggest that he’s in danger so long as it stays on the feet. Espinosa clips him with a counter, then clamps down on his favorite d’arce choke when Schnell tries to shoot.
Prediction: Espinosa via first round submission
UFC on ESPN 5 more top-heavy than Marvin the Paranoid Android, but a free card with Robbie Lawler is still worth tuning in to. See you Saturday, 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.