Fresh off the announcement of the Stipe Miocic-Daniel Cormier rubber match, the heavyweights will lead the way in Las Vegas this Saturday (June 20, 2020) as Curtis Blaydes squares off with Alexander Volkov at UFC APEX.
Also on tap is a potential Featherweight “Fight of the Year” between knockout artists Josh Emmett and Shane Burgos, as well as a clash between top-10 Bantamweights Raquel Pennington and Marion Reneau.
Seven “Pelims” this time around; we’ve whipped up the first batch for your perusal below.
185 lbs.: Marc-Andre Barriault (11-4) vs. Oskar Piechota (11-3-1)
Canada’s “Power Bar” secured the TKO Middleweight title with a second-round knockout of Brendan Kornberger, then stopped Adam Hunter in his first defense before joining the UFC. He’s yet to taste victory in the Octagon, dropping three consecutive decisions. He gives up three inches of reach to Poland’s “Imadlo.”
Piechota got off to a red-hot UFC start, dominating Jonathan Williams in his debut and laying out Tim Williams his next time out. Soon after, comeback submission loss to Gerald Meerschaert kicked off a three-fight losing streak, the most recent of which saw him knocked cold by Punahele Soriano in December. He’s knocked out and submitted five opponents apiece.
If both men execute at their best, Piechota has the skills to take a comfortable victory. Barriault’s had all kinds of issues staying on his feet during his Octagon tenure, surrendering nearly half a dozen takedowns last time out to a man in Jun Yong Park who’s primarily a boxer. Despite submission losses to Meerschaert and Rodolfo Vieira, the former of whom Piechota gassed against and the latter of whom is one of the greatest grapplers in history, “Imadlo’s” jiu-jitsu is elite enough to own this fight if it hits the ground.
That said, Barriault might have an easier time bouncing back from competitive decision losses than Piechota will from three straight stoppages. Still, the Pole has enough of a technical edge in Barriault’s weakest area and enough standup chops to hold his own in the Canadian’s wheelhouse. Piechota gets back on the scoreboard with an early takedown and submission.
Prediction: Piechota by first-round submission
155 lbs.: Frank Camacho (22-8) vs. Matt Frevola (8-1-1)
“The Crank” staked his claim as one of the sport’s most entertaining fighters by starting his UFC career with three consecutive Fights of the Night. A brutal knockout loss to Geoff Neal snapped that streak, and though he got back on track by knocking out Nick Hein, a subsequent tapout against Beneil Dariush dropped him to 2-4 in the Octagon. He’s scored 17 pro wins by (T)KO and another two by submission.
“The Steamrolla” rumbled past Jose Flores on the Contender Series to earn a UFC contact, only to start his Octagon run 0-1-1. He went on to right the ship with consecutive upsets of prospects Jalen Turner and Luis Peña. He gives up an inch of height and two inches of reach to Camacho.
For his sake, I’m glad that Frevola is leaning on his wrestling lately; I’m sure his loss to Polo Reyes served as a wake-up call. That shift in priorities should serve him well here. As staggering as Camacho’s striking output can be, his love of planting his feet and swinging for the fences can leave him open to takedowns, and the wildness of his haymakers hasn’t really translated to stopping power.
Frevola can theoretically keep up with Camacho on the feet, and what advantages the latter has in that area are offset by Frevola’s ostensible ability to take him down as needed. So long as “Steamrolla” doesn’t get caught up in a brawl, which he’s admittedly been better about lately, he defuses Camacho’s madcap offense to take a comfortable decision.
Prediction: Frevola by unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Roxanne Modafferi (24-16) vs. Lauren Murphy (12-4)
“The Happy Warrior” earned her biggest win since 2010 last year by outgrappling Antonina Shevchenko in Russia, claiming her second UFC victory in the process. Though she fell to fellow Invicta veteran Jennifer Maia soon after, Modafferi scored another huge upset in January when Maycee Barber injured her knee in the second round. She gives up two inches of height to “Lucky.”
Nearly five years after her initial UFC debut, Murphy finally got her first Octagon finish by knocking out Mara Romero Borella last August. She kept the upset momentum going in January by taking a controversial split decision over Andrea Lee. She’s scored eight professional wins by form of knockout.
While her striking remains unpolished, Modafferi’s top game is legitimately dangerous, and I’d favor her over practically anyone at 125 that she could feasibly outwrestle. Unfortunately, I’m not sure Murphy is among their number. “Lucky” appears to be the physically stronger of the two on top of being similarly versed in takedown offense and defense, and her standup packs a bit more oomph.
This is the sort of matchup that could easily devolve into 15 minutes of them jockeying for position against the fence, and Murphy has the edge there, too. A lack of significant strikes could lead to some wacky scorecards, but Murphy will earn the win. She should just hope that karma doesn’t have a bone to pick over the Lee decision.
Prediction: Murphy by split decision
155 lbs.: Austin Hubbard (11-4) vs Max Rohskopf (5-0)
“Thud” Hubbard got a rough introduction to the Octagon in the form of ADCC champ Davi Ramos, who handed the former LFA champ his first defeat since 2017. A decision over Kyle Prepolec earned him a spot in the UFC win column, though he couldn’t overcome the wrestling prowess of Olympic medalist Mark O. Madsen in March. He’ll give up three inches of height and two inches of reach to Rohskopf.
A standout wrestler at NC State, Rohskopf transitioned to jiu-jitsu and amateur MMA before making his pro debut in 2018. The Xtreme Couture product has ended all of his pro fights by submission, the last four in the first round. He steps in for Joe Solecki on six days’ notice.
Rohskopf tends to win so quickly that it’s hard to get a precise bead on his capabilities, but there’s definitely a lot to like. He’s got nasty power in his right hand, a nasty front choke attack, and he’s remarkable adept at taking the back from odd positions. That looks like a recipe for success against Hubbard, who had all sorts of problems with the grappling attacks of Ramos and Madsen.
What Hubbard does have going for him is experience against quality opposition and a proven ability to go five hard rounds; if the early finish isn’t there for Rohskopf, he’s in for the toughest slog of his MMA career. Also, “Thud” was preparing for another ground specialist in Solecki, so his preparation shouldn’t be too different. It’s hard to argue against Rohskopf’s pedigree and size advantages, though. He cruises his way to victory through persistent top control and submission attempts.
Prediction: Rohskopf by unanimous decision
Three more UFC on ESPN 11 “Prelims” fights remain to preview and predict, including a noteworthy Strawweight prospect and the return of Gillian Robertson, which we’ll have for you at the same time tomorrow night.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on ESPN 11 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also stream on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC on ESPN 11: “Blaydes vs. Volkov” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
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