The big boys take center stage inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, this Saturday (Nov. 28, 2020) when Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis duke it out for a potential shot at the UFC Heavyweight title. In addition, Anthony Smith looks to end his recent Light Heavyweight slump against Devin Clark, while Miguel Baeza fights fellow Welterweight knockout artist Takashi Sato.
Three UFC Vegas 15 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to be examined (check out the first batch here). Let’s have a look ...
135 lbs.: Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Norma Dumont
Consecutive wins over Marion Reneau and Veronica Macedo gave way to two straight losses, sending Ashlee Evans-Smith (6-4) from Bantamweight to Flyweight. She started her 125-pound run strong with a decision over Bec Rawlings, but failed to do the same to Andrea Lee in her second effort.
This marks her first appearance in 21 months.
Norma Dumont (4-1) — out of action for 1.5 years — stepped up in weight to face Megan Anderson in her February debut. The move proved ill-advised, as Anderson slept her with a right hand late in the first round.
“Imortal” has scored two first-round rear-naked choke finishes as a professional.
It’s difficult to get a clear idea of Dumont’s potential because there isn’t much pre-UFC footage of her and she spent most of that Anderson fight just holding her against the fence. Evans-Smith’s potential, by contrast, is both very obvious and very limited. Her wrestling credentials failed to properly transition to the cage and her striking could best be described as “adequate.”
In the end, I have to go with the known over the unknown, even if that “known” is underwhelming. Evans-Smith has at least faced a far tougher strength of schedule, and should be able to grind her way to a narrow decision.
Prediction: Evans-Smith via split decision
135 lbs.: Martin Day vs. Anderson dos Santos
Martin Day (8-4) put an unsuccessful “Contender Series” bid behind him to win three straight, only to drop a controversial decision to Liu Pingyuan in his Octagon debut. He would not fight again for nearly two years, at which point he lost a firefight to Davey Grant in July.
He stands five inches taller than “Berinja” at 5’10.”
Anderson dos Santos (20-8) made a two-week turnaround and stepped up in weight to face Nad Narimani in his 2018 Octagon debut, a bold move that sadly failed to pay dividends. He kept it far closer against Andre Ewell seven months later, but still couldn’t secure his first UFC victory.
Thanks to a failed COVID test scratching a July clash with Jack Shore, this will be his first fight in 17 months.
Shore would have utterly brutalized dos Santos. Day — though not nearly as promising as “Tank” nor as stylistically toxic to “Berinja” — figures to find plenty of success. He boasts a notable striking edge over the much shorter dos Santos, and while Day has some shaky takedown defense, dos Santos failed to get his grappling going against a far less competent wrestler in Ewell.
So long as Day doesn’t go too crazy with the spinning s—t and give dos Santos easy takedowns, he should be able to take the Brazilian apart at long range without issue. He uses those height and reach advantages to the fullest as he potshots his way to victory.
Prediction: Day via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Amir Albazi vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov
Amir Albazi (13-1) bounced back from his career-first loss to Jose “Shorty” Torres with a first-round submission of Ryan Curtis, setting up an eventual Octagon debut against reigning TKO champion Malcolm Gordon. The ground game of “The Prince” proved too much for “Malcolm X,” whom he caught in a triangle choke late in the first.
Seven of his 12 professional stoppages have come by submission.
Zhalgas Zhumagulov (13-4) took a narrow decision over top prospect Tagir Ulanbekov to claim the Fight Nights Global Flyweight championship, then did the same to former UFC title challenger Ali Bagautinov in his inaugural defense. Fortune failed him in his Octagon debut, however, as he dropped a controversial decision to Raulian Paiva in July.
He gives up an inch of height and two inches of reach to Albazi.
To his credit, “Zhako” did much better than I anticipated against Paiva, whom I’d tabbed as a terrible stylistic match up. Still, this looks like an Albazi win. That’s because “The Prince” can keep up with him on the feet and has the wrestling chops to recreate Ulanbekov’s largely successful efforts against the fence. As good a scrambler as Zhumagulov is, he’ll struggle to get those haymakers going in the face of Albazi’s pressure and takedown onslaught.
Albazi isn’t the hardest guy to hit, so Zhumagulov definitely has a chance to clip him at any point in the fight, but expect Albazi to rack up enough top control time to secure the win.
Prediction: Albazi via unanimous decision
At least UFC Vegas 15’s main event should be plenty of fun ... while it lasts. See you Saturday, 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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