It’s an afternoon show in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, this Saturday (Sept. 7, 2019_ when UFC 242 pits Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov against his interim 155-pound counterpart, Dustin Poirier, against each other in a battle for the ages. Also at 155 pounds, Edson Barboza rematches Paul Felder and Islam Makhavhev looks to keep his streak going against Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert Davi Ramos.
FX hosts the second half of UFC 242’s “Prelims” undercard for the first time in ages (check out the Fight Pass portion here); therefore, let’s check out the lunchtime line up.
125 lbs.: Joanne Calderwood vs. Andrea Lee
Joanne Calderwood (13-4) found immediate success upon her return to 125 pounds, tapping Kalindra Faria and taking an upset decision over Ariane Lipski in consecutive efforts. “JoJo” couldn’t quite make it three straight against Katlyn Chookagian, losing a narrow decision in Chicago last June.
She’ll give up four inches of reach to “KGB.”
Andrea Lee (11-2) was unsuccessful in her first bid at Invicta gold and suffered an upset submission loss to Sarah D’Alelio three fights later, but rattled off four straight wins to earn a spot in the Octagon. She has yet to taste defeat there, most recently defeating The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran Montana De La Rosa in June.
Four of her six professional stoppage wins have come by submission, three of them armbars.
Both of these women average an impressive amount of strikes per minute, have surprisingly stout wrestling games in their back pockets, and have developed into threats on the mat. It’s a toss-up that’ll most likely be decided by whomever is able to keep it at their preferred range.
That figures to be Lee, whose significant reach advantage will allow her to steer clear of Calderwood’s lethal clinch and whose scrambling ability should keep her off of her back for any length of time. Calderwood’s powerful kicks and high volume could sway a judge, but Lee should box her way to a narrow win.
Prediction: Lee via split decision
145 lbs.: Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Lerone Murphy
Zubaira Tukhugov (18-4) built up some early Octagon momentum with three consecutive victories, extending his win streak to nine and setting up a clash with fellow prospect Renato Moicano. “Warrior” wound up on the wrong side of a split decision, after which a failed drug test and the UFC 229 fiasco (details) kept him out of action since that defeat.
This will be his first fight in more than three years.
Lerone Murphy (8-0) went from unbeaten amateur to professional in 2016, fighting in various promotions in his native England. His most recent effort saw him snap a two-fight decision streak with a first-round knockout of Manolo Scianna in May.
Five of his professional wins have come by form of knockout.
Murphy is a quality pickup for UFC, a tall, powerful striker who reminds me of a slightly less wrestle-heavy Leon Edwards. He’s got a nice array of kicks, powerful elbows on the inside, and solid clinch and top games to complete the ensemble.
All things being equal, the heavy-handed Tukhugov would still have the edge with his aggression and wrestling. Thing is, he’s been out for three years and underperformed against both Moicano and Philippe Nover, the latter of whom he should have beaten with ease. I like Murphy for the upset here, using his height advantage to keep Tukhugov at bay and walk away with a competitive decision.
Prediction: Murphy via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Liana Jojua vs. Sarah Moras
Georgia’s Liana Jojua (7-2) rebounded from a two-fight skid to submit her next four opponents in a round apiece, including two in less than one minute. This earned her a shot at top Russian prospect Marina Mokhnatkina, whose submission attack Jojua survived en route to a majority decision victory.
Her five submission wins include four by armbar.
A semifinalist on TUF 18, Sarah Moras (5-5) picked up wins in two of her first three Octagon appearances, including an upset armbar of Ashlee Evans-Smith. She’s not tasted victory since, dropping three straight and suffering her first career (technical) knockout loss to Macy Chiasson in May.
She stands three inches taller than Jojua at 5’7.”
Moras is strangely memorable to me, being a poster child for what happens when you have great Brazilian jiu-jitsu and sub-par wrestling. She’s not good enough off of her back to make up for it, either, and she’s yet to really hold her own in the striking.
That’s not to say things are all bleak for her — Jojua gave up some early takedowns to Mokhnatkina and spent a decent amount of time stuck on her back when Mokhnatkina didn’t overextend looking for submissions. Still, Jojua’s striking edge and submission defense should give her the edge. Hard one-two combinations and low kicks set the pace on the feet, making up for what time Jojua spends on her back and earning her the nod.
Prediction: Jojua via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Ottman Azaitar vs. Teemu Packalen (8-2)
Ottman Azaitar (11-0) — whose brother Abu competes in the Octagon as a Middleweight — claimed the Brave CF Lightweight title in Nov. 2017 with a nasty body kick knockout of Alejandro Martinez. Nine months later, he moved up in weight to face Daniel Kokora, whom he stopped in 36 seconds for his seventh career (technical) knockout.
At 5’7,” he stands four inches shorter than Finland’s Teemu Packalen (8-2).
Packalen rebounded from his short-notice debut loss to Mickael Lebout with a 24-second submission of Thibault Gouti in London, earning “Performance of the Night” in the process. His subsequent fight with Marc Diakiese was similarly brief but far less successful, as “Bonecrusher” caught him with a lethal overhand right just 30 seconds in.
This will be his first fight since that loss in March 2017.
Azaitar follows a similar gameplan as his brother, hurling haymaker flurries or threatening with high-amplitude wrestling with that doesn’t work. He does do a lot of things better than Abu, though — Ottman doesn’t neglect the body and has shown a willingness to jab when he starts losing steam. He won’t be elite, but he’s good for more than just local mismatches.
Packalen is the better grappler of the two, but the strength disparity and Azaitar’s own wrestling make it unlikely that the Finn’s lethal submissions will come into play. Azaitar exploits Packalens’s rust to put him away with a punching flurry partway through the first.
Prediction: Azaitar via first-round technical knockout
UFC 242 features a can’t-miss main event and plenty of quality action from top-to-bottom, which will make for a quality pay-per-view (PPV) event. See you Saturday, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 242 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FX at 12 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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