Undisputed Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya’s next challenger could be decided at UFC Vegas 16 this Saturday (Dec. 5, 2020) when Marvin Vettori steps up on a week’s notice to face Swedish finisher Jack Hermansson inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. Twenty pounds north, Ovince St. Preux attempts to halt the rise of promising prospect Jamahal Hill, while unbeaten finisher Roman Dolidze fights Brazilian slugger John Allan.
Three UFC Vegas 16 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to be examined (check out the first batch here). Let’s wrap it up, shall we?
265 lbs.: Gian Villante vs. Jake Collier
After putting together a 7-8 run as a UFC Light Heavyweight, Gian Villante (17-2) made the jump to 205 pounds, ultimately debuting against Maurice Greene in June. Though he nearly put “The Crochet Boss” away in the third round, he ultimately tapped to a Hail Mary choke with less than 90 seconds to go.
He owns 10 professional wins by knockout and another two by submission.
Jake Collier (11-5) has alternated losses and wins since his 2014 debut, scoring three upsets in the process. He returned from a nearly three-year absence this past July against Tom Aspinall, who put the newly-minted Heavyweight down with a right hand in 45 seconds.
“The Prototype” sports a 2.5” reach advantage over Villante despite both men standing 6’4.”
Just to be clear: these guys didn’t move up to Heavyweight because they’d properly outgrown their usual weight classes. They moved up to Heavyweight because they’re undisciplined. Villante’s case is especially egregious, as he seemingly added weight to only his waistline.
Neither of them have promising futures ahead, even in a division as top-heavy as 265 pounds. At the end of the day, though, I’ll take the overweight, mediocre Light Heavyweight over the overweight, mediocre Middleweight. So long as Villante doesn’t somehow compromise his gas tank even further, he blows away Collier in the first round.
Prediction: Villante via first-round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Jordan Leavitt vs. Matt Wiman
A submission victory under the LFA banner brought Jordan Leavitt (7-0) to “Contender Series” less than one month later, when he faced fellow ground specialist Luke Flores. Despite entering on short notice, Leavitt’s grappling proved more potent, as he tapped Flores with an arm triangle late in the first.
Five of his seven professional wins have come by submission.
Matt Wiman’s (16-9) decision over Isaac Vallie-Flagg in 2014 — his sixth win in eight fights — turned out to be his last Octagon appearance for 4.5 years. His return to action hasn’t gone terribly smoothly, resulting in 2019 losses to Luis Pena and Joe Solecki.
He is the shorter man by one inch and gives up four inches of reach.
I’m not sure who among the UFC brass Wiman pissed off, but they’re a petty bastard. After getting shredded on the mat by grappling specialists twice in a row, he gets a third one in Leavitt. If this had taken place seven or so years ago, I’d favor Wiman to control the wrestling and punish Leavitt’s vestigial stand up. Now, after watching look completely helpless against a limited takedown artist in Pena, it looks like he’s headed for another wipeout loss.
If there’s one thing Wiman’s retained, it’s his submission defense, so he’ll likely survive the full 15 minutes. Unfortunately, he’s no longer sharp enough to parlay that resilience into effective offense. In the end, regular takedowns and submission attempts should carry Leavitt to a comfortable win.
Prediction: Leavitt via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Jimmy Flick vs. Cody Durden
Jimmy Flick (15-5) — two fights removed from a loss to future UFC competitor Ray Rodriguez — needed just 38 seconds to choke out Greg Fischer and claim the LFA Flyweight title. His grappling prowess showed itself again on “Contender Series,” where he choked out unbeaten Nate Smith in a contract-winning effort.
Thirteen of his professional wins, including all of them since 2011, have come by submission.
Seven finishes in seven consecutive wins carried Cody Durden (11-2-1) to a late-notice Octagon debut against Chris Gutierrez this past August. He spent nearly the entire first round attached to the favorite’s back, but found himself unable to secure takedowns in the second and third rounds, resulting in a draw.
Though the taller man by one inch, he gives up 3.5 inches of reach.
There’s two ways this fight can go: either we get an incredible ground battle between a phenomenal submission ace and a pedigreed wrestler, or we get an awful stand up slog. Luckily for us, I’m thinking the latter because both men are far more comfortable initiating the wrestling than trying to sprawl-and-brawl.
Not that it’s necessarily the best idea for Durden. He’s the better takedown artist, sure, but Flick’s front chokes, sweeps and scrambling skills more than offset that difference. Whether by putting Durden on his back or punishing him for attempting to do the same in return, he gets his arms around Durden’s neck before long.
Prediction: Flick via first-round submission
UFC Vegas 16 has taken some licks, but it still features heaps of top prospects and entertaining contenders. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 16 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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