T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, hosts a title doubleheader this Saturday (March 7, 2020) when Israel Adesanya and Zhang Weili look to turn aside the ever-dangerous Yoel Romero and Joanna Jederzejczyk, respectively, at UFC 248. The ESPN+ pay-per-view (PPV) main card will also see Beneil Dariush take on fast-rising Lightweight Drakkar Klose and Li Jingliang welcome Neil Magny back to the Octagon after more than one year away.
Before all that, though, we’ve seven “Prelims” to get through. Here’s the early batch on ESPN+/Fight Pass:
115 lbs.: Emily Whitmire vs. Polyana Viana
Emily Whitmire (4-3) took out Christina Marks with a 40-second armbar in the opening round of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 26, but suffered stoppage losses of her own to Roxanne Modafferi in the house and Gillian Robertson at the Finale. She went on to win her next two, including an upset of Jamie Moyle, before running into Amanda Ribas in Minneapolis.
“Spitfire” faces a 3.5-inch reach disadvantage.
Polyana Viana (10-4) — a decorated submission artist — showed her stuff in her Octagon debut by dominating Maia Kahaunaele-Stevenson. She hasn’t tasted victory since, losing three straight and tapping to Veronica Macedo in her most recent effort.
All but one of her 10 stoppage wins have come in the first round.
Viana absolutely has the tools to win this fight. She also had the tools to beat J.J. Aldrich, Hannah Cifers and Veronica Macedo, and look how that turned out. I don’t know whether it’s a mental block or just an overall inability to fight up to her potential, but Viana is a profoundly frustrating fighter to follow.
That said, “Spitfire’s” wrestling and submission defense have failed her in the past, and Viana’s grappling credentials are pretty dang impressive. This pick will probably come back to bite me, but I say Viana claws her way back into the win column with an early submission.
Prediction: Viana via first-round submission
145 lbs.: Jamall Emmers vs. Giga Chikadze
Jamall Emmers’ (17-4) four-fight win streak, which included a decision over future Bantamweight contender Cory Sandhagen, came to a crashing halt on “Contender Series” thanks to a Julian Erosa head kick. He went on to win another four straight, among them a knockout of TUF veteran Jay Cuccinello and an LFA main event victory.
He has knocked out seven professional opponents and submitted another three.
GLORY Kickboxing veteran Giga Chikadze (8-2) looked on the brink of victory on “Contender Series,” only for his wrestling to fail him late in the third and result in a submission loss to Austin Springer. He wound up getting his Octagon shot a year later, scraping past Brandon Davis in Copenhagen. He was originally slated to face Mike Davis in Norfolk last weekend, but injuries to Davis and former Emmers foe Movsar Evloev led to him taking this fight on short notice.
Chikadze was probably in trouble against Davis, who does his best work on the feet but has some takedown chops in a pinch. He’s definitely in trouble against Emmers, a decorated wrestler with the skills to finish Chikadze on the ground in a hurry. The only thing that keeps this from being a total wipeout is Emmers’ occasional tendency to overindulge on the feet; he didn’t shoot once against Erosa, which ultimately cost him, and didn’t commit to takedowns until partway through his most recent effort.
Chikadze may not be anywhere near a rounded fighter yet, but he’s more than good enough to turn Emmers’ lights out if given room to operate.
Still, it’s difficult to rely on a guy who gave up three takedowns to Brandon Davis against a wrestler of this caliber. In the end, Emmers drags him to the mat and either submits him or pounds him out at his leisure.
Prediction: Emmers via first-round submission
135 lbs.: Danaa Batgerel vs. Guido Cannetti
Mongolia’s Danaa Batgerel (6-2) — who owns a 2013 decision win over Kai Kara-France — returned from 2.5 years away to score two knockouts in less than two months. One year later, he debuted against Alateng Heili, losing a unanimous decision but walking away with a “Fight of the Night” bonus.
Half of his professional wins have come by form of knockout.
Guido Cannetti (8-4) got a second chance on TUF: “Latin America” after losing a close split decision to Marco Beltran, but ran headlong into Alejandro Perez to make it 0-2 on the season. He’s 2-3 in the Octagon itself, notably upsetting Hugo Viana and tapping to former teammate Marlon Vera in his last effort.
This will be his first fight in almost 16 months.
I’ve been harsh on Cannetti in the past, perhaps unfairly so, but I genuinely think this is a rough match up for him. Danaa can match or exceed him in most areas of the game, but with the added bonus of being far more durable. Danaa can survive Cannetti’s blitzes and come back with his own, while the inverse isn’t true.
There’s also the fact that Cannetti is 40 years old, which is more than a little concerning.
Cannetti just leaves himself way too open to deal with a fighter of Danaa’s grit and aggression. In short, Danaa survives the early storm to blow away Cannetti around the midway point.
Prediction: Danaa via second-round technical knockout
Four more UFC 248 “Prelims” undercard remain to preview and predict, among them the latest from Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend Rodolfo Vieira and the long-awaited return of Sean O’Malley. Same time as always, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 248 fight card this weekend starting with the Fight Pass/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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