While undisputed Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic gears up for a rematch with Francis Ngannou, Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis will square off for a potential crack at the title when they headline the latest event to take place inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, this Saturday (Nov. 28, 2020). UFC Vegas 15 will also see Anthony Smith step up on short notice to face Devin Clark and two-time “Contender Series” winner Josh Parisian fight fellow Heavyweight slugger Parker Porter.
UFC Vegas 15 features seven “Prelims” undercard bouts this weekend (all on ESPN+/ESPN2) that will set the stage for these post-Thanksgiving battles. Let’s check out the first batch ...
125 lbs.: Su Mudaerji vs. Malcolm Gordon
Su Mudaerji (12-4) — who joined UFC on the heels of a submission loss — almost certainly felt some deja vu when Louis Smolka dispatched him in similar fashion. He rebounded brilliantly nine months later, however, dominating Andre Soukhamthath in Shenzhen.
He fights for the first time since Aug. 2019, having withdrawn from a March clash with Bruno Silva.
Malcom Gordon (12-4) twice defended his TKO Flyweight title in impressive fashion, submitting James Mancini and The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran Yoni Sherbatov, before stepping up on short notice to face Aleksander Doskalchuk on “Fight Island.” When Doskalchuk withdrew, “Malcolm X” instead faced Amir Albazi, who gave him a taste of his own medicine with a first-round triangle.
He has submitted six professional opponents and knocked out four others.
Beating up Andre Soukhamthath may not be a particularly laudable feat, as “The Asian Sensation” has turned self-sabotage into an art form, but it’s hard not to be impressed by Mudaerji’s improvements. If that effort was genuinely indicative of a souped-up game and not just a product of Soukhamthath imploding again, there’s every reason to think the Tibetan makes it two straight here. He’s got a significant edge in firepower over Gordon, who’ll struggle to impose his slickster stylings against a longer, taller, more versatile striker.
The X-factor, of course, is Gordon’s wrestling. Poor takedown defense spelled the end for Mudaerji against Smolka, and standing up to Soukhamthath’s wrestling isn’t sufficient evidence that he’s completely fixed that issue. Still, I favor Mudaerji to catch him with something nasty in a back-and-forth striking battle.
Prediction: Mudaerji via first-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Luke Sanders vs. Nathan Maness
Following a dominant, bonus-winning submission of Maximo Blanco in his UFC debut, Luke Sanders (13-3) fell into a 1-3 skid, all three defeats coming by stoppage. “Cool Hand” Luke managed to right the ship somewhat in 2019, smashing former champion Renan Barao to win “Fight of the Night.”
This will be his first fight in 21 months.
Nathan Maness (12-1) snapped Jesse Arnett’s 12-fight winning streak to win the TKO Bantamweight belt, but failed to retain it against UFC veteran Taylor Lapilus in his first defense. After a get-well win in his native Kentucky, he joined UFC in August and handed late-notice replacement Johnny Munoz Jr. the first loss of his professional career.
Though four inches taller than Sanders, he’ll have just a one-inch reach advantage.
Sanders actually opened as an underdog, which surprised me. Sure, he’s had his fair share of struggles in the Octagon, but Maness only barely got past Munoz in his Octagon debut and was thoroughly shredded by Lapilus. “Cool Hand” Luke is the bigger hitter by a fair margin, and though he’s the shorter of the two, Maness has never been particularly adept at maximizing his size advantage.
Even acknowledging Sanders’ proclivity for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, this doesn’t figure to be too difficult for him, especially since Maness lacks the power or submission skills to punish Sanders’ lapses the way Andre Soukhamthath and Iuri Alcantara did. In the end, Sanders beats him up on the feet for either a mid-round stoppage or comfortable decision.
Prediction: Sanders via second-round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Spike Carlyle vs. Bill Algeo
Despite entering the world’s MMA fight promotion on the heels of four consecutive wins, Spike Carlyle (9-2) found himself an underdog against “Contender Series” standout Aalon Cruz in his debut, only to flip the script with an 85-second knockout. Then came Billy Quarantillo, who out-lasted “The Alpha Ginger” en route to a close decision victory.
His eight finishes, split 5/3 between knockouts and submissions, include seven in the first round.
Bill Algeo (13-5) saw a four-fight win streak end at the hands of Brendan Loughnane on the Contender Series, though he started his 2020 campaign strong by beating Tim Dooling in August. Just 16 days later, he stepped up on short notice to face Ricardo Lamas, falling just short in a “Fight of the Night”-winning slugfest.
“Senor Perfecto” stands four inches taller than Carlyle and will enjoy a 2.5-inch reach advantage.
Considering the three takedowns Algeo gave up to Loughnane and the five he surrendered to Lamas, it’s safe to say that he won’t be staying on his feet for long; Carlyle’s going to be on him like Mike Perry on a cheeseburger from the opening bell. Algeo’s task, then, is to survive Carlyle’s mauling top control long enough to turn things around when the latter starts to fade. Quarantillo just barely pulled it off, but I’m not convinced Algeo can do the same.
Even if “Senor Perfecto” does manage to take things into deep waters, I’m not sure he has the stopping power to put Carlyle away in the brief stretches where he’s not fighting off takedowns. Carlyle should pound him out early, and even if he doesn’t, he’ll build up enough of an early lead to get the win.
Prediction: Carlyle via first-round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Kai Kamaka vs. Jonathan Pearce
Undefeated since a 2-2 pro start, Kai Kamaka (8-2) scored wins in KOTC, Bellator and LFA en route to an August UFC debut against Tony Kelley. It wound up being one to remember, earning both men “Fight of the Night” bonuses after three entertaining rounds.
He replaces Sean Woodson on a week’s notice.
Jonathan Pearce (9-4) — four stoppage wins removed from a three-fight skid — secured himself a UFC contract by knocking out Jacob Rosales on “Contender Series.” This set up an Octagon debut against Joe Lauzon, who shockingly mauled the favored “JSP” in just 93 seconds.
All of his wins since 2015 have come by stoppage, six of them via form of knockout.
Getting smashed by the battered husk of Joe Lauzon is a bad look for anyone, and the way in which he got smashed is especially concerning. Kamaka has the boxing skill to punish Pearce’s leaky defense and the takedowns to dominate on the mat the way Lauzon did. “JSP” will find it difficult to get his pressure going when Kamaka can drag him to the mat whenever things start to get hairy.
That said, Pearce is the notably larger man and Kamaka’s had cardio issues before, which make the former’s relentless aggression a potential threat. He’ll have to both keep it standing and get past Kamaka’s hands to make it work, though, and I don’t see him doing either. I suspect Kamaka banks at least the first two rounds through sharp boxing and long stretches of top control.
Prediction: Kamaka via unanimous decision
We’ve for three more UFC Vegas 15 “Prelims” bouts to preview and predict, including a clash between two highly entertaining Flyweights. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 15 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+/ESPN2 “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+/ESPN2 10 p.m. ET.
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