Two middleweight finishers meet on the crossroads at UFC Vegas 5 this Sat. night (Aug. 1, 2020) when Derek Brunson attempts to halt the rise of smashing machine Edmen Shahbazyan from inside the promotion’s UFC APEX facility, streaming exclusively on ESPN+.
The heavily shuffled fight card will also see flyweight sensation Joanne Calderwood risk her top contender spot against Jennifer Maia while Bobby Green looks to settle some unfinished business with lightweight veteran Lando Vannata.
That won’t happen until we chew through the six-fight preliminary card. To see the first half of our “Prelims” breakdown click here.
The remaining batch carefully dissected below.
135 lbs.: Frankie Saenz (12-6) vs. Jonathan Martinez (11-3)
Saenz rose through the Bantamweight ranks with three consecutive wins, only to hit a three-fight losing streak slightly tempered by his Fight of the Night bonus against “Tanquinho” Mendes. Wins over Merab Dvalishvili and Henry Briones got him back on track, though Marlon Vera proved too much to handle. This will be his first fight in over 16 months.
“Dragon” put his short-notice UFC debut loss behind him by beating Wuliji Buren and Liu Pingyuan, the latter of which earned him a Performance of the Night bonus. He appeared to have made it three straight against Andre Ewell, but wound up on the wrong end of a split decision. He’s two inches taller than Saenz and will enjoy a 3.5 inch advantage.
I’ll admit to procrastinating on this one, if only because it’s such a two-true-outcome fight. Saenz would be 1-5 in his last six with proper judging, but he can definitely wrestle, which remains Martinez’s key weakness. I can very easily see Saenz grinding his way to a narrow victory.
I can also see him getting torn apart at range, and that seems a lot more likely. Between Saenz’s age and mileage, Martinez should be able to outhustle him and score a fight-ending blow before long.
Prediction: Martinez by first-round TKO
205 lbs.: Ed Herman (24-14) vs. Gerald Meerschaert (31-13)
After nearly 10 years as a UFC Middleweight, Herman elected to move to 205 pounds, where he knocked out Tim Boetsch before dropping three straight. He got back on track last year with a pair of upset victories over Patrick Cummins and Khadis Ibragimov. He gives up 2.5 inches of reach to “GM3.”
Meerschaert bounced back from a questionable decision loss to Eryk Anders by choking out prospect Deron Winn for his sixth Octagon finish. He couldn’t capitalize on the momentum, though, falling to Ian Heinisch by knockout in just 74 seconds. He replaces Da Un Jung on less than two weeks’ notice.
Even acknowledging that Herman is better than I usually give him credit for and that the Heinisch debacle rattled my faith in “GM3’s” historically rock-solid debacle, I favor the late replacement. He’s got the heavier hands, enough grappling chops to hold if Herman hits his first takedown since 2017, and his body attack looks like a genuine threat against the 39-year-old “Short Fuse.”
Herman will struggle to outwork, knock out, or outgrapple his younger foe unless he can find the killer knee that’s scored his only finishes in the last eight years. Against a similarly tall opponent who prefers to work at range, that seems unlikely. Meerschaert outworks him on the feet for a comfortable decision win.
Prediction: Meerschaert by unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Ray Borg (13-5) vs. Nathan Maness (11-1)
Borg rebounded from consecutive losses to Demetrious Johnson and Casey Kenney with decision wins over Gabriel Silva and Rogério Bontorin, though he missed weight against the latter. Then came a quality scrap with Ricky Simón, which saw Borg show some improved standup en route to a split decision loss. He’s dispatched six pro opponents by submission, though none since 2015.
Maness followed up his decision over veteran Caio Machado with a second-round knockout of Jesse Arnett to claim the TKO Bantamweight title. Though he lost the belt to UFC veteran Taylor Lapilus in his first defense, he returned in February with a 99-second knockout win. He’ll have a six-inch height advantage and a nine-inch reach advantage.
Despite being a perennial underachiever, this looks like a very winnable matchup for Borg. Maness’ edges in height and length are undercut by his vulnerability to pressure, which the 5’6” Lapilus exploited to piece “Mayhem” up against the fence. So long as he stays on the front foot, Borg should be able to comfortably work in the pocket and threaten with takedowns.
Maness does have some pop and counters well, making closing the distance a bit hazardous, but Borg’s historically been durable and persistent enough to power through return fire. Even if the takedown isn’t always there, his speed and aggression will carry him to a comfortable decision.
Prediction: Borg by unanimous decision
Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2020: 66-52-1
Though COVID-19 and other misfortunes have decimated the fight card, there’s still some potential to be found.
See you Saturday, Manaics.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 5 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the main card portion that also streams on ESPN+ at 9 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 5: “Brunson vs Shahbazyan” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.