Four years after their first battle, Corey Anderson and Jan Blachowicz will meet as top Light Heavyweight contenders this Saturday evening (Feb. 15, 2020) when they headline the latest ESPN+ card in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Down at 170 pounds, veteran Diego Sanchez looks to shut down Brazilian wild man Michel Pereira, while Dequan Townsend makes a sub-month turnaround against Devin Clark at Light Heavyweight.
Let’s bang out the last three UFC Fight Night 167 “Prelims” undercard bouts (check out the first four here) and get back to catching all the Oscar winners we missed:
170 lbs.: Tim Means vs. Daniel Rodriguez
Tim Means’ (29-11-1) brutally efficient Welterweight run gave way to a 1-3 skid, including razor-thin losses to Belal Muhammad and Sergio Moraes alongside a come-from-behind knockout loss to Niko Price. He got back on track this in Dec. 2019 with a guillotine finish of Thiago Alves, just the fifth submission victory of his career.
“The Dirty Bird” has scored 19 knockout wins as a professional.
Daniel Rodriguez (10-1) put together a four-fight win streak to earn a “Contender Series” slot opposite Rico Farrington in July 2019. Despite facing height and reach disadvantages, he utilized aggression and well-timed takedowns to claim a decision, albeit not one that earned him a contract.
“D-Rod” steps in for Ramazan Emeev on three weeks’ notice.
If Rodriguez decides to stand and trade with Means — as he seemed happy to do for most of his fight with Farrington despite scoring easy takedowns — he’s screwed. He overcommits badly to his overhand left, leaving his head wide open as he stumbles, and had all sorts of trouble getting inside when Farrington committed to keeping a jab in his face. Means is more than technically savvy enough to take Rodriguez apart in any prolonged exchange.
Where Rodriguez does have a shot is with his ground game, as he’s adept at passing to mount and unleashing heavy punches from there. Historically, though, Means has been extremely difficult to hold down, so Rodriguez will end up trading punches whether he wants to or not. “The Dirty Bird” dissects him for a mid-round mercy stoppage.
Prediction: Means via second-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: John Dodson vs. Nathaniel Wood
John Dodson (20-11) The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 14 Bantamweight winner, started his UFC career 5-1 with a narrow loss to Demetrious Johnson as the only blemish. He is just 3-5 since, currently riding a two-fight losing streak courtesy of Jimmie Rivera and Petr Yan.
He’ll give up three inches each of height and reach to Nathaniel Wood (16-3).
Four consecutive knockout wins under the Cage Warriors banner secured Wood two successful defenses of its Bantamweight title and a UFC berth. He’s been similarly dominant in the Octagon, choking out Johnny Eduardo, Andre Ewell and Jose Alberto Quinonez.
Fourteen of his wins have come inside the distance, eight of them by form of knockout.
Dodson’s collapse has less to do with physical decline or fighting above his ideal weight and more to do with the fact that he never evolved. He’s the same low-output, one-handed banger who floored T.J. Dillashaw eight years ago, offering little besides his booming overhand left. That’s not to say that can’t win him this fight — we’ve seen Wood badly hurt before and “The Prospect” can’t lean on his wrestling the way he has in previous Octagon appearances.
Still, Wood’s length and far more versatile striking arsenal look like more than the aging “Magician” can handle. His chances of winning comfortably from the outside outweigh Dodson’s chances of finding a one-hitter quitter.
Prediction: Wood via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Jim Miller vs. Scott Holtzman
An ongoing battle with Lyme disease and some high-level competition combined to produce a four-fight skid for Jim Miller (31-13), who’d previously won three straight. He now finds himself on a 3-1 run, all three wins coming by submission.
He’s tapped 17 professional opponents during his 14-year career.
Scott Holtzman (13-3) took some time to find his footing in the Octagon, opening his run 2-2, but now finds himself 4-1 in his last five. The current stretch includes an upset knockout of Alan Patrick and a terrific back-and-forth war with Dong Hyun Ma in his most recent effort last August.
“Hot Sauce” is the taller man by one inch, but will give up two inches of reach.
Holtzman’s wrestling prowess seems frustratingly inconsistent. He went from completely shutting down Patrick’s takedown offense to surrendering five to Lentz — he can’t afford to have similarly porous defense against Miller, whose top game remains potent enough to trouble top-tier Lightweights.
If Miller’s decline had more to do with wear and age than an enterprising tick, Holtzman’s physical superiority may be enough to earn him the win. Considering what it’s historically taken to knock Miller out and the fact that, outside of Diego Sanchez in 2016, Miller hasn’t lost to a sub-top-15 fighter in his whole career, I say Miller turns the clock back one more time.
Prediction: Miller via first-round submission
UFC Fight Night 167 isn’t prettiest card, but at least we’ll get a new contender out of it. See you Saturday, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 167 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also stream on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Night 167: “Anderson vs. Blachowicz” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.