Two of the premier Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight division highlight generators meet inside Mexico City Arena in Mexico City, Mexico, this Saturday (Sept. 21, 2019) when Yair Rodriguez dukes it out with Jeremy Stephens on ESPN+. Also on tap are local sluggers Alexa Grasso and Irene Aldana, who respectively face Carla Esparza and debuting Brazilian Vanessa Melo, and the Octagon return of Brandon Moreno.
We’ve got three more UFC Fight Night 159 “Prelims” remaining to preview and predict (check out the first batch here). And now is as good a time as any to take a look below:
135 lbs.: Jose Quinonez vs. Carlos Huachin
The runner-up on the inaugural The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Latin America” series, Jose Quinonez (7-3) rebounded from his debut loss to win four in a row and set up a clash with fellow prospect Nathaniel Wood last March. The step-up proved too much for “El Teco,” who tapped to a rear-naked choke midway through the second round.
This will be the first time since 2014 that he has competed twice in a calendar year.
Carlos Huachin (10-4-1) — riding a seven-fight unbeaten streak — answered the call when Raoni Barcelos lost his UFC 237 opponent in May. “El Perro Malo” started strong on the feet, but ultimately succumbed to the Brazilian’s ground-and-pound.
He has scored nine first-round finishes as a professional, eight of them via knockout.
It’s hard to get a bead on where exactly Quinonez stands in the Bantamweight division. That’s because as nice as a four-fight win streak looks on paper, none of the men he beat wound up with winning records in the Octagon. He looked badly outclassed against Wood, who’s essentially the only quality opponent we have to measure him against since “El Teco’s” loss to Alejandro Perez at TUF Finale.
Huachin is a serious threat on the feet who’s burdened with substandard takedown defense. Even with the aforementioned concerns I have about Quinonez, that wrestling deficiency is too juicy a target for me to pick against him. Regular top control carries him to a unanimous decision win.
Prediction: Quinonez via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Polo Reyes vs. Kyle Nelson
The 4-1 UFC start Polo Reyes (8-6) start saw him score three post-fight bonuses thanks to two first-round knockouts and a 2016 “Fight of the Year” candidate against Dong Hyun Ma. He has since suffered consecutive (technical) knockout losses to Damir Hadzovic and Drew Dober, prompting a drop to Featherweight for this bout.
All but two of his professional wins have come by form of knockout.
Kyle Nelson (12-3) stepped up in weight to challenge Diego Ferreira in his late-notice Octagon debut, wherein he managed to sting the Lightweight contender before suffering a (technical) knockout loss in the second. “The Monster” returned to 145 pounds against Matt Sayles, tapping to an arm triangle after spending a while attached to “Robo’s” back.
He’ll have one inch of height and three inches of reach on his foe.
I feel like a lot of fighters see dropping in weight as a panacea for whatever ails them. Reyes’ problem wasn’t being too small, it was his shoddy defense against both takedowns and strikes. Nelson’s fight with Sayles suggests he can exploit at least one of those, as he found considerable grappling success before running out of steam.
If he can do that to Sayles, he can do it to Reyes.
“El Toro’s” heinous punching power makes him a threat to anyone, and he could very well leverage his size advantage into some early sprawls. After watching him struggle with Hadzovic’s grappling, which has consistently failed the Bosnian in the Octagon, I can’t have faith in it. Nelson survives an early scare to take the back and either choke (or pound out) the Mexican slugger.
Prediction: Nelson via second-round submission
115 lbs.: Angela Hill vs. Ariane Carnelossi
Angela Hill (9-7) went from unsuccessful TUF alum to Invicta champion after leaving the UFC in 2014, claiming and once defending the promotion’s Strawweight belt. She has gone 3-5 in her second Octagon run, most recently dropping a decision to the surging Xiaonan Yan at UFC 238.
“Overkill” stands an inch taller than Carnelossi at 5’3.”
Ariane Carnelossi (12-1) has not tasted defeat since her professional debut against future UFC competitor Amanda Ribas, finding success in multiple Brazilian promotions. She won a one-night tournament last November, then knocked out fellow once-beaten Ketlen Souza last May for her third finish in five fights.
“Sorriso” has knocked out eight professional opponents and submitted one other.
Carnelossi is powerful and entertaining, but she’s the sort of foe Hill really should be able to beat. “Overkill” is the better striking technician and ostensibly won’t have to worry about takedowns; plus, unlike the Yan and Cortney Casey fights, Hill won’t be facing height and reach disadvantages. Outside of Carnelossi’s power, Hill figures to hold the edge most everywhere.
That said, she’s underperformed in the past, and Carnelossi is dogged enough to potentially take a decision through volume and aggression. Without a physical disparity to work through, though, Hill figures to exploit Carnelossi’s limited footwork and take a decision behind her jab and movement.
Prediction: Hill via unanimous decision
Yair Rodriguez vs. the guy who hits people and they “don’t f***ing move” sounds like good matchmaking to me. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 159 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 159: “Rodriguez vs. Stephens” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.