Elite strikers battle for Welterweight supremacy this Saturday (Dec. 19, 2020) when former title challenger Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson attempts to halt the stunning rise of Geoff Neal. UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, also hosts a pair of pivotal Bantamweight bouts pitting Jose Aldo against Marlon Vera and Marlon Moraes against Rob Font.
Four UFC Vegas 17 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict (check out the first batch here), so it’s time to get to the bottom of them ...
170 lbs.: Belal Muhammad vs. Dhiego Lima
Belal Muhammad (17-3) put a 1-2 Octagon start behind him to win four straight, only to run into the surging Geoff Neal last year. He’s since put together another three-fight winning streak, including a decision over Lyman good in June.
He gives up three inches of height and almost as much reach to Dhiego Lima (15-7).
A 1-3 skid bounced Lima from UFC, and though he managed to find his way back via TUF 25, he followed a loss on the Finale with a decision defeat to Yushin Okami. He enters the cage this Saturday on a three-fight win streak, and a victory would mark his longest unbeaten run since 2011.
He steps in for Sean Brady on short notice.
I’ll admit to badly underestimating Lima in his recent efforts, but Muhammad just seems all wrong for him. “Remember the Name” is more than capable of holding his own on the feet, especially since Lima’s fragility offsets Muhammad’s lack of stopping power, and he has the sort of wrestling that’s given Lima fits in the past.
The only things Lima really has going for him here are height and reach, both of which Muhammad proved he could deal with in his win over Tim Means. Whether he decides to mix it up standing or make his life easier with regular takedowns, Muhammad cruises to a comfortable victory.
Prediction: Muhammad via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Karl Roberson vs. Dalcha Lungiambula
These two were supposed to fight last week, so I figured I’d just re-use what I already had.
Karl Roberson (9-3) followed his 15-second knockout of Ryan Spann on “Contender Series” with another quick finish of Darren Stewart, only to lose two of his next three to Cezar Ferreira and Glover Teixeira. “Baby K” righted the ship with wins over prospects Wellington Turman and Roman Kopylov, then tapped to a Marvin Vettori rear-naked choke after badly missing weight.
Despite being five inches taller than Dalcha Lungiambula (10-2), he gives up two inches of reach.
“Champion Dalcha” lived up to his nickname by winning EFC’s Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight titles, leading to a successful Octagon debut against Dequan Townsend. Then came top prospect Magomed Ankalaev, who knocked the Congolese judoka out with a front kick in Moscow.
This marks his first appearance in 13 months.
Moving down in weight isn’t always the right response to adversity, but this was long overdue for Lungiambula, who regularly weighed in well below the Light Heavyweight limit. Middleweight should prove much more accommodating of his 5’8” frame and could potentially fix some of the issues he had with strong takedown artists. Not sure it’s enough of a panacea to get him past Roberson, though; “Baby K” is the sharper kickboxer by a fair margin and has enough wrestling chops to neutralize “Champion Dalcha’s” judo.
If Lungiambula can consistently catch Roberson’s kicks and force him into close-quarters exchanges, he’s got a real shot at starting his Middleweight run with a win. More likely, Roberson leans on his crisper strikes and possibly the occasional takedown to take a competitive, but comfortable, decision.
Prediction: Roberson via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Sijara Eubanks vs. Pannie Kianzad
After a winless (0-2) start to her UFC Bantamweight career, Sijara Eubanks (6-5) got back on track with consecutive decisions over Sarah Moras and Julia Avila. Just two weeks after the latter victory, “Sarj” stepped in to face Ketlen Vieira, surging late but ultimately dropping a decision.
Her four professional finishes include three by form of knockout.
Pannie Kianzad (13-5) reached The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 28 finals with decisions over Katharina Lehner and Julija Stoliarenko, only to fall to Macy Chiasson. “Banzai” returned to the Octagon seven months later with a loss to Julia Avila, but has since beaten Jessica-Rose Clark and Bethe Correia in successive efforts.
She stands three inches taller than Eubanks at 5’7.”
As mercurial as Kianzad tends to be, there’s one constant with her: she’s extremely difficult to take down, and when the takedowns aren’t there, Eubanks struggles. Conversely, Avila showed that raw pressure can be sufficient to give “Banzai” trouble, and Eubanks is nothing if not persistent.
Personally, Eubanks’ red flags look a little more troubling than Kianzad’s. ”Sarj” struggled to get her striking going against the taller Vieira until the third round, and while Kianzad doesn’t have the takedown chops “Fenomeno” used to great effect, neither did Bethe Correia, who sprawled-and-brawled her way to victory over Eubanks. In the end, Kianzad’s long-range attack carries her to a narrow win.
Prediction: Kianzad via unanimous decision
190 lbs.: Deron Winn vs. Antonio Arroyo
Deron Winn (6-2) — a protege of Daniel Cormier — secured a UFC invite with a decision over Tom Lawler and walked away with a “Fight of the Night” bonus for his debut win over Eric Spicely. He’s yet to enjoy similar success, falling to Darren Stewart and Gerald Meerschaert while missing weight against the former.
He faces a nine-inch height disadvantage alongside his 3.5-inch reach disadvantage.
Though his decision over Diego Henrique on “Contender Series: Brazil” wasn’t enough to get him a contract, Antonio Arroyo’s (9-3) subsequent submission of Stephen Regman on the standard show did the trick. He subsequently debuted against fellow two-time series alum Andre Muniz, who used persistent wrestling to claim victory in their all-Brazilian showdown.
This will be his first fight in more than one year.
This is absolutely do-or-die for Winn, who’s fallen well short of expectations in the Octagon. Not only has his stand up failed to develop, but that vaunted wrestling of his has struggled to make itself known in the Octagon. While Arroyo’s issues with Muniz’s takedowns should give Winn some hope, the Brazilian’s length, striking edge, and scrambling ability will give him fits unless he’s made some major improvements.
Arroyo figures to be good enough at getting off of his back to weather the early storm and take over at long distance as the fight progresses. So long as he sets up his kicks enough to avoid Winn catching them, Arroyo potshots him for an increasingly one-sided decision.
Prediction: Arroyo via unanimous decision
UFC Vegas 17’s main card is just choked with the potential for slobber knockers ... be sure not to miss ‘em. See you Saturday, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 17 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.
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