The Heavyweight division’s premier wrestler and one of its top strikers duke it out at UFC APEX this Sat. night (June 20, 2020) when Curtis Blaydes and Alexander Volkov headline the latest UFC on ESPN fight card.
The event will also feature clashes between top Featherweights and top Welterweights as Josh Emmett trades hands with Shane Burgos while Lyman Good looks for his first UFC winning streak against Belal Muhammad.
Three remaining “Prelim” bouts left to examine before that, however, conveniently deconstructed below (preview the first four right here).
155 lbs.: Clay Guida (35-19) vs. Bobby Green (24-10-1)
Consecutive stoppage losses to Thiago Tavares and Brian Ortega sent Guide from Featherweight back to his old stomping grounds of 155, where he promptly dominated Erik Koch and Jose Luazon in consecutive appearances. He’s since gone 1-2, submission losses to Charles Oliveira and Jim Miller sandwiching a decision over what’s left of BJ Penn. His 20 professional finishes include 13 by submission.
“King” Green ended his Strikeforce run on a 4-fight winning streak, then extended it to eight in the Octagon. The success wasn’t to last, and he enters the cage this Saturday 1-5-1 in his last seven. He stands three inches taller than Guida at 5’10”.
Not all slumps are created equal. Ugly as Green’s current run looks, the majority of the media had him beating both Drakkar Klose and Francisco Trinaldo in his most recent fights. There are no such moral victories for Guida, who’s been decisively stopped in his last six losses. Green just looks like he has a lot less wear, a lot more left in the tank than the weathered “Carpenter.”
The style matchup is in Green’s favor as well, as he’s the superior boxer and has historically proven difficult to control on the mat. There is, of course, the concern that the pathologically frantic Guida could outwork or appear to outwork the often lethargic Green, but “King” should eke this one out, especially since he’s upped his volume in some recent efforts.
Prediction: Green by split decision
115 lbs.: Tecia Torres (10-5) vs. Brianna Van Buren (9-2)
Though her Ultimate Fighter run proved underwhelming, Torres proved that her pre-show hype was legit by winning six of her first seven Octagon bouts. Unfortunately for “The Tiny Tornado,” she currently finds herself winless since 2017, dropping four straight. She’s taller than Van Buren by an inch but gives up an inch of reach.
“The Bull” put a 3-2 professional start behind her to win five straight, including three in one night to claim victory in Invicta’s Phoenix Rising tournament. Her success led to a short-notice UFC debut in July, which saw her comfortably outclass former Invicta champ Livia Renata Souza. She’s submitted three foes and knocked out two others, all but one in the first round.
Torres’ may be among the least damning losing streaks in the sport, having come against three former/future champions and one of the division’s best prospects in Marina Rodriguez. She’s still a quality fighter at 30 years old and by far the best striker Van Buren has yet faced; even if Torres has proven unable to topple the cream of the crop, I’m not prepared to write her off just yet.
Van Buren does still have the momentum, though, and Torres has struggled with the combination of aggressive striking and constant takedowns that “The Bull” offers. This is far more of a pick-‘em fight than the odds would suggest and a Torres upset certainly isn’t out of the equation, but Van Buren’s persistent advance should net her a narrow decision.
Prediction: Van Buren by unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Cortney Casey (9-7) vs. Gillian Robertson (7-4)
Casey’s 0-2 Octagon start gave way to a strong 3-1 run, only for her to run into a 1-3 skid that featured multiple controversial decisions. “Cast Iron” kept the judges out of the equation last time, though, catching Mara Romero Borella in a first-round armbar to earn a Performance of the Night bonus. She steps in for Taila Santos on short notice for her second fight in just over a month.
Robertson’s grappling skills carried her to four stoppage wins in her first five UFC appearances, including an upset rear naked choke of rising prospect Molly McCann. Young gun Maycee Barber proved more than “The Savage” could handle, however, battering her into submission partway through the first round. She has not won by decision since her second pro fight, submitting five and knocking out one.
I sincerely hope the walloping Robertson got from Barber doesn’t make her lose confidence in her abilities; “The Savage” is one of the premier wrestlers and submission artists in the division, and she has the tools to win this comfortably. Though Casey will have significant height and reach advantages, takedown defense has always been one of her bugbears, and her skills off of her back aren’t sufficient to keep her afloat against someone with this sort of top control.
So long as Robertson leans on her wrestling the way she has in her successful efforts, she should ground Casey early and often. From there, it’s just a question of whether she wants to hand Casey her first submission loss since 2013 or her first TKO loss period via ground-and-pound.
Prediction: Robertson by second-round TKO
Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2020: 39-30-1
Blaydes-Volkov and Muhammad-Good are both quality scraps, and Emmett-Burgos is absolute fire.
Don’t miss ‘em!
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.