In a main event that has “post-fight bonus” written all over it, Lightweight finishing machines Justin Gaethje and Donald Cerrone headline the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) return to the Great White North this Saturday (Sept. 14, 2019). UFC Fight Night 158, which takes place inside Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Canada, will also see former Light Heavyweight title challenger Glover Teixeira square off with Nikita Krylov, as well as Uriah Hall fighting for his UFC life against Antonio Carlos Jr.
We’ve got three more UFC Fight Night 258 “Prelims” undercard bouts remaining to preview and predict (check out the first batch here), so let’s not keep ‘em waiting:
265 lbs.: Augusto Sakai vs. Marcin Tybura
The hulking Augusto Sakai (13-1-1) out-brawled Marcos Conrado Jr. on “Contender Series: Brazil” to earn a contract, then did the same to Chase Sherman less than two months later in his Octagon debut. He turned in an uninspiring performance against Andrei Arlovski in April, but escaped with a controversial decision for his fourth consecutive victory.
Ten of his professional wins have come by form of knockout, half of them in the first round.
Marcin Tybura (17-5) rebounded from a loss in his Octagon debut to win three straight, including a bonus-winning head kick knockout of Viktor Pesta, and earn himself a headlining spot opposite Fabricio Werdum in Australia. “Tybur” wound up losing that fight, kicking off a 1-3 skid that includes knockout defeats to Derrick Lewis and Shamil Abdurakhimov.
He has picked up nine first-round finishes of his own.
As experienced and well-rounded as Tybura is, Sakai looks to be a problem for him. The Brazilian will likely be 20+ pounds larger in fight night, has good takedown defense, and carries his power late. Yes, Sakai looked pedestrian against Arlovski last time out, but so have almost all of “The Pitbull’s” recent opponents, Tybura included.
The big Pole hasn’t turned in an eye-catching effort since pounding out Luis Henrique in 2017. Sakai takes some kicks early, but his power and aggression will let him find the finish as the rounds progress.
Prediction: Sakai via second-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Miles Johns vs. Cole Smith
Miles Johns (9-0) amassed a perfect (3-0) record under the LFA banner before challenging for its vacant Bantamweight belt, which he claimed with a split decision over Adrian Yanez. “Chapo” went on to fight Richie Santiago on “Contender Series,” and though he didn’t get the finish, neither did anyone else that night, allowing him to walk away with a contract.
He stands four inches shorter than “The Cole Train” at 5’7.”
Cole Smith (7-0) went from 4-3 amateur to top professional prospect in his native Canada, winning the Battlefield Fight League Bantamweight title in 2017 and defending it twice. This past May, he stepped up on short notice against veteran Mitch Gagnon and survived a late knockdown to claim victory in his Octagon debut.
Four of his seven professional stoppage wins have come by submission.
I like this match up a lot, and not just for being a clash of undefeated prospects. Johns has the stronger wrestling pedigree, but appeared to slow down in his Contender Series victory. Smith has been hurt before, but has a seemingly bottomless gas tank. Each man looks equipped to exploit the other’s weaknesses, and I expect both to come out of this as better fighters.
For me, what decides this coin-flip of a fight is Johns’ underrated power. Despite only two professional (technical) knockout finishes, he packs some heat in his right hand, and I can see him scoring a knockdown or two to sway the judges. While Smith will have greater success as the fight progresses, Johns will rack up enough early damage and top control to claim victory.
Prediction: Johns via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Andrew Sanchez vs. Marvin Vettori
Andrew Sanchez (11-4) enjoyed a dominant run on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 23, where he secured Team Claudia’s total victory with a decision over Khalil Rountree at the Finale. He opened his Octagon career even (2-2), suffering comeback knockout losses courtesy of Anthony Smith and Ryan Janes, but has since picked up a pair of decision victories.
He stands one inch taller than the 6’0” “Italian Dream.”
Marvin Vettori (13-3) started his Octagon career strong with a pair of first-round submission, but stumbled into a 1-2-1 run and subsequent United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) suspension that put a dent in his momentum. Two months ago, he returned after 15 months away to dominate Cezar “Mutante” in Sacramento.
He replaces the injured David Branch on little more than six weeks’ notice.
Fix Sanchez’s cardio and you have a genuine contender. Strong wrestling, great Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and good power in his hands make him a difficult proposition for most of the division. As is, it’s hard to have faith in him, especially against someone as aggressive as Vettori. While Sanchez looks to have the technical edge, that won’t last too long once Vettori’s pace starts wearing him down.
A methodical Sanchez can win this, especially if Vettori’s relatively quick turnaround comes back to bit him. I just don’t think he can maintain a comfortable pace with Vettori refusing to get out of his face. Vettori takes over in the second and third to take a comfortable decision.
Prediction: Vettori via unanimous decision
“Gaethje vs. Cerrone” is all I need to hear. See you Saturday, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 158 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will stream on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Night 158: “Cowboy vs. Gaethje” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.