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UFC Fight Night 157 predictions: ‘Andrade vs Zhang’ undercard ‘Prelims’ preview - Pt. 2

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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to ESPN this weekend (Sat., Aug. 31, 2019) when UFC Fight Night 157: “Andrade vs. Zhang” storms Universiade Sports Centre in Shenzhen, China.’s Patrick Stumberg continues the UFC Fight Night 157 “Prelims” party with the second (and final) installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Strawweight champion Jessica Andrade puts her belt on the line in hostile territory this Saturday morning (Aug. 31, 2019) when Shenzhen, China, hosts her inaugural title defense against local standout Weili Zhang. UFC Fight Night 157 will also see Welterweight bonus-winning machines Elizeu Zaleski and Li Jingliang duke it out in a potential “Fight of the Year” and Invicta standout Mizuki Inoue face Flyweight finisher Wu Yanan.

UFC Fight Night 157’s three ESPN-televised “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to be examined (check out the first batch here), so let’s get on that below:

145 lbs.: Movsar Evloev vs. Zhenhong Lu

Evloev (11-0) spent the entirety of his pre-UFC career in the M-1 promotion, where he claimed a Bantamweight title in 2017 and enjoyed three successful defenses. He made his Octagon debut in April, overpowering late replacement Seung Woo Choi on the mat en route to a unanimous decision.

Four of his seven stoppage wins have come by rear naked choke.

Lu (18-6) rebounded from a 2-4 skid to win 11 of his next 12, eight of them via stoppage. He last fought on June 13th, wrapping up a kimura for his sixth pro submission win.

He steps in for Mike Grundy, who failed to secure a visa, on just over a week’s notice.

This is actually a rematch of Evloev’s second pro fight back in 2015, which saw the green Russian dominate the majority of the fight on the mat. Comparing their recent efforts, I don’t expect it to be much more competitive this go-around. Evloev’s exquisite chain wrestling still gives him in the edge in Lu’s favored clinch exchanges and the former’s striking has developed to the point where he can ostensibly dominate wherever he chooses.

Evloev just seems to be better absolutely everywhere and should win every round with relative ease through slick kickboxing and top control. Grundy would have been an intriguing style clash, seeing as he’s got the wrestling credentials to challenge Evloev in his area of expertise, but expect the Russian to make the most of this easier ask with a one-sided victory.

Prediction: Evloev via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Damir Ismagulov vs. Thiago Moises

Damir Ismagulov (18-2) — another M-1 champion — defended his Lightweight belt twice before joining UFC in Dec. 2018. His Octagon career has seen him win one-sided decisions over Alex Gorgees and Joel Alvarez, the latter of whom was riding a 10-fight finish streak.

He has knocked out nine professional opponents and submitted one other.

Thiago Moises (12-3) — the former Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA) Lightweight champion — demolished Gleidson Cutis on “Contender Series: Brazil” to secure a UFC contract. He struggled against veteran Beneil Dariush’s wrestling in his debut, but used his own takedown prowess to claim victory over Kurt Holobaugh in May.

He stands one inch shorter than Ismagulov and will give up four inches of reach.

I picked against Moises in the Holobaugh fight by virtue of the Brazilian’s historical issues with pressure. Instead, he used his wrestling to defuse Holobaugh’s offense. It was the right thing to do, but we’ve seen what happens when that option isn’t available to him — both Robert Watley and the aforementioned Dariush managed to more or less dominate him by keeping him on the back foot and/or the mat.

Ismagulov’s a dangerous takedown artist in his own right and should be able to drag Moises to the mat as needed. From there, his top game is more than sufficient to ride out large chunks of each round. Unless Moises has considerably improved his wrestling, Ismagulov grinds him out without much issue.

Prediction: Ismagulov via unanimous decision

125 lbs.: Kai Kara-France vs. Mark De La Rosa

Kai Kara-France (19-7) scored the most impressive finish of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 24 with a 30-second knockout of Terrence Mitchell in the opening round, only to fall to No. 1-seed Alexandre Pantoja in the quarterfinals. After a decision loss to Tatsumitsu Wada — who recently gave Demetrious Johnson a tough out — “Don’t Blink” went on to win his last seven, including two in UFC.

He is 12-1 overall in his last 13 fights.

Mark De La Rosa (11-2) — husband of Flyweight contender Montana — lost his unbeaten record in his Octagon debut against Tim Elliott thanks to TUF 24 winner’s anaconda choke. “The Bumblebee” came back to win two straight before falling to Alex Perez in Philadelphia.

Five of his six submission wins have come by rear-naked choke.

This is practically a homecoming for Kara-France, who’s spent large chunks of his career fighting in East Asia, and it looks like it’ll be a successful one. In addition to his knockout power, Kara-France has shown quality takedown defense and scrambling during his Octagon tenure, ostensibly nullifying De La Rosa’s one area of superiority. If “The Bumblebee” can’t consistently get on top and work his way to the back, then he’s at the mercy of a more technically sound and devastating striker.

De La Rosa’s chokes are an ever-present threat, but Kara-France’s considerable stand up edge and ostensible ability to keep it on the feet should earn him a comfortable victory.

Prediction: Kara-France via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Karol Rosa vs. Lara Procopio

A teammate of Jessica Andrade at Parana Vale Tudo, Karol Rosa (11-3) has seen seven consecutive fights end inside the distance. She has won three of her last four, most recently avenging an early-career loss to Giselle Moreira via third-round technical knockout.

She stands two inches taller than Lara Procopio (6-0) at 5’6.”

Nova Uniao’s Procopio is the latest double champ to enter the Octagon, claiming two titles in three Shooto Brasil appearances. Last year saw her defeat Rosa teammate Mariana Morais for the Bantamweight title in March, then drop 10 pounds to defeat future Queen of Pancrase Sidy Rocha five months later.

She has finished two professional opponents via first-round armbar.

I know I bang the “generalist vs. specialist” drum more than I probably should, but it’s an easy shorthand to describe a situation like this. Though Rosa looks to be the more comfortable and capable of the two on the feet, Procopio’s single-minded devotion to dragging opponents to the mat as soon as possible will make that advantage meaningless.

To her credit, Rosa does have some strong ground chops of her own and figures to at least be Procopio’s match in the wrestling. Unfortunately, she’s also been submitted twice while in top position, meaning any grappling engagement will be favorable for Procopio. Procopio’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu prowess and Rosa’s leaky ground defense result in a tapout finish before the midpoint.

Prediction: Procopio via first-round submission

Round up your coffee and amphetamines and join us for some early morning ruckus. See you Saturday, Maniacs!

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 157 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN “Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 3 a.m. ET, then the main card portion that will stream on ESPN+ at 6 a.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Night 157: “Andrade vs. Zhang” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2019: 113-68