Two elite standouts in a weight class crawling with talent take center stage inside Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, this Saturday (Oct. 10, 2020) when former Bantamweight title challenger Marlon Moraes takes on all-action finisher Cory Sandhagen. The evening will also see Edson Barboza look for his first Featherweight win against wrestling ace Makwan Amirkhani and Heavyweight veteran Ben Rothwell trade hands with Marcin Tybura.
UFC Fight Island 5 features seven “Prelims” undercard bouts this weekend, split 4/3 for your convenience. Let’s get to it!
135 lbs.: Ali AlQaisi vs. Tony Kelley
Ali AlQaisi (8-4) brought a five-fight win streak into his Octagon debut, which pitted him against former Titan FC champ Irwin Rivera. Though he kept it close, “The Royal Fighter” ultimately ended up on the wrong end of a split decision for his first loss since 2017.
He gives up three inches of height and two inches of reach to “Primetime.”
Tony Kelley (6-2) sat out for nearly three years following a narrow split decision loss to Kevin Aguilar in a 2016 bid for the Legacy FC Featherweight title, returning in May of last year with a first-round guillotine choke. He would miss another 15 months before duking out with Kai Kamaka III in UFC 252’s Fight of the Night. He’s submitted three pro foes and knocked out two others.
While the jury’s out on whether Kelley is actually best served dropping in weight, he certainly lucked into a favorable matchup in his Bantamweight debut. His length, movement, high output, and large striking arsenal all look like solid counters to AlQaisi’s limited offense. Plus, while he gave up five takedowns to Kamaka, the Hawaiian never managed to keep him down for long.
So long as Kelley’s gas tank holds up, he’s got the tools to outclass AlQaisi almost anywhere the fight goes. He outworks “Royal Fighter” on the feet for a wide decision win.
Prediction: Kelley via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Giga Chikadze vs. Omar Morales
Though his “Contender Series” bid proved unsuccessful, Giga Chikadze (10-2) has yet to taste defeat in the Octagon, amassing a perfect (3-0) record over the course of a year. The former Glory standout most recently took a unanimous decision over Irwin Rivera in May, but was forced to withdraw from a planned August bout against Alex Caceres.
He’s scored six professional mixed martial arts (MMA) wins by form of knockout, though none in the Octagon.
Two-to-one odds didn’t stop Omar Morales (10-0) from smashing Harvey Park on “Contender Series” and earning a contract in the process. He’s made the most of the opportunity with entertaining Octagon victories over Dong Hyun Ma and Gabriel Benitez.
This will be his Featherweight debut.
I’m more torn on this than I thought I’d be. On one hand, Morales is primarily a striker, and there’s not many Featherweights I’d pick to beat Chikadze in a pure standup battle. On the other, “Venezuelan Fighter” is a massive step up in competition; Brandon Davis had lost four of six coming in, Jamall Emmers didn’t wake up until halfway through the second round, and Rivera is a natural Bantamweight whom Chikadze dwarfed. This will be Chikadze’s first time facing a legitimate contender in MMA, and the fact that Morales scored a takedown in his Octagon debut suggests that he might have enough of a ground game to throw off the Georgian’s offense.
At the end of the day, though, I can’t pick against Chikadze when his opponent figures to give him the exact sort of fight he wants. Chikadze wins a long-range kicking battle to make it four straight in UFC.
Prediction: Chikadze via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Tracy Cortez vs. Stephanie Egger
Tracy Cortez (7-1) battled her way to a decision win over Mariya Agapova to secure a contract on “Contender Series,” setting up a UFC debut against Duda Santana. When that fell through, she instead took on Vanessa Melo, whom she defeated for her seventh consecutive victory.
She is the shorter woman by two inches.
A standout judoka who once defeated Ronda Rousey on the mats, Stephanie Egger (5-1) has won three straight since a 2016 split decision loss to Alexa Conners in her Invicta debut. The run notably includes a decision over Japanese fan-favorite “KING” Reina Miura, whom she defeated by decision under the Rizin banner.
She steps in for Bea Malecki on little more than one week’s notice.
Egger has said that she doesn’t want to be compared to Ronda Rousey, but she probably should have developed some actual standup to differentiate herself from the “Rowdy” one. Her striking is painfully underdeveloped to the point that Cortez, who relies more on aggression than any particular technical prowess, should have little issue bullying and battering her across the cage. To make matters worse for the Swiss newcomer, Cortez is a stout wrestler in her own right, limiting her chances of getting the favorable clinch she needs.
Cortez only loses this fight if she gets profoundly sloppy closing the distance and hands Egger a body lock on a silver platter. In almost every other scenario, she beats Egger up for a comfortable decision.
Prediction: Cortez via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Bruno Silva vs. Tagir Ulanbekov
Four years after falling to Dileno Lopes on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Brazil 4,” Bruno Silva (10-5-2) stepped up in weight to face Khalid Taha at UFC 243, ultimately succumbing to the German’s arm-triangle choke in the third round. He would not fight again until last March, when he dropped a competitive decision to late replacement David Dvorak in Brasilia.
He stands three inches shorter than Tagir Ulanbekov (12-1) at 5’4.”
Ulanbekov enjoyed a dominant run on the Russian circuit, choking out Vartan Asatryan for the FNG Flyweight belt before controversially losing it to Zhalgas Zumagulov in his first defense. He then took his talents to GFC, becoming its Flyweight champion as well during his three-fight stint.
He was slated to debut in July, but withdrew after the death of trainer Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov.
You’ve got to feel for Silva, whose Octagon tenure has pitted him against a Bantamweight powerhouse, an up-and-coming dark horse, and now one of the best Flyweight prospects in the game. Ulanbekov is far, far too skilled a wrestler and grappler for Silva’s jiu-jitsu to play a factor, and while he’s not a particularly devastating striker, his length and sharp jab will neutralize Silva’s dangerous stand up.
Last year, one of Ulanbekov’s training partners, Abubakar Nurmagomedov, got tapped while on top. Silva had better pray that fortune smiles on him in similar fashion, because otherwise, Ulanbekov’s going to potshot and grind him into oblivion.
Prediction: Ulanbekov via unanimous decision
Three more UFC Fight Island 5 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, each of which features an undefeated prospect. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Island 5 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance at 8 p.m. ET (also on ESPN+).
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