The immortal Frankie Edgar — reeling from three losses in his last four fights — will attempt to reignite his career in a fresh weight class this Saturday (Aug. 22, 2020) when Pedro Munhoz welcomes him to the Bantamweight division. UFC on ESPN 15 also features two clashes of Light Heavyweight knockout artists and what could be an absolute Welterweight slugfest between Daniel Rodriguez and Takashi Sato.
Three UFC on ESPN 15 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to be dissected (check out the first batch here), so let’s get choppin!’
125 lbs.: Mariya Agapova vs. Shana Dobson
Mariya Agapova (9-1) put her unsuccessful “Contender Series” appearance behind her with an impressive run in Invicta, which saw her stop both of her opponents in less than one round apiece. She was similarly dominant in her June Octagon debut, dropping and choking out late replacement Hannah Cifers.
She has knocked out three opponents and submitted four others.
Shana Dobson (3-4) rebounded from a The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 26 defeat to Roxanne Modafferi by knocking out castmate Ariel Beck on the Finale. She’s yet to taste victory since, losing decisions to Lauren Mueller and Sabina Mazo before suffering a 40-second knockout defeat to Priscila Cachoeira.
She’ll have an inch of reach on her Kazakh foe.
I can’t blame UFC for taking things slow with Agapova; however, even though clearly talented and full of potential, she’s still quite green at 23 years old. Even by those standards, however, Dobson is a light touch. That’s because the Lloyd Irvin-trained product lacks the wrestling to exploit Agapova’s shaky takedown defense or the craft to keep from getting simply out-hustled and out-muscled in striking exchanges. It’s hard to have faith in someone who just got demolished by the division’s biggest meme.
While she won’t have the frankly ludicrous size advantage she enjoyed against Cifers, Agapova’s aggression and power should carry her to a comfortable victory. It’s less a question of whether she’ll beat Dobson than whether she’ll end it inside the distance.
Prediction: Agapova via second-round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Austin Hubbard vs. Joe Solecki
Austin Hubbard (12-4) has spent the majority of his UFC career in the deep end, facing and falling to Davi Ramos and Mark O. Madsen alongside a win over Kyle Prepolec. “Thud” came up big two months ago, however, forcing top prospect Max Rohskopf to quit in the corner after two grueling rounds.
He is the taller man by one inch and will have a slight reach advantage.
Joe Solecki (9-2) made the most of his July “Contender Series” opportunity, choking out James Wallace and earning a UFC contract wasn’t there. Though he was unable to get the finish in his debut five months later, he turned in a dominant performance against Matt Wiman to sweep the scorecards.
Four of his six submission wins have come by rear naked choke.
Unfortunately for me, I deleted the full prediction I’d written for Hubbard-Solecki when they were booked to fight in June — it would have saved me some time, as my view hasn’t changed. Solecki has the wrestling and submission skills to recreate Rohskopf’s early success without the worry of critical cardio failure.
Hubbard’s best chance lies in wearing down Solecki with a persistent striking attack, but what stand up edge he might have is insufficient to bridge the gulf between them on the ground and Solecki is seasoned enough to not collapse if the early success doesn’t last. Without the power to put Solecki down in one shot or the takedown defense to keep Solecki’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu out of the equation, it’ll be a long night for “Thud.”
In short, Solecki racks up long stretches of top control to claim victory.
Prediction: Solecki via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Dwight Grant vs. Jared Gooden
After knocking out Tyler Hill to earn a contract on “Contender Series,” Dwight Grant (10-2) dropped a narrow split decision to Zak Ottow for his first loss since 2011. He entered the UFC win column with a bonus-winning knockout of Carlo Pedersoli, then followed that up two months later by edging out Alan Jouban in another split decision.
He fights for the first time in 16 months.
Jared Gooden (17-4) saw a six-fight win streak give way to a 1-2 skid, one of those losses coming to UFC veteran Mike Graves in a bid for the Titan FC title. He has since won three straight, all by stoppage within two rounds.
He’s knocked out and submitted seven opponents apiece.
It’s actually somewhat impressive how few punches Grant has actually landed during his time in the Octagon. Though he did smash up Pedersoli during their round of combat, he combined for just 63 significant strikes in six rounds against Ottow and Jouban. It doesn’t help that despite being called “The Body Snatcher,” he disgraces the legacy of Mike McCallum by barely ever targeting the midsection, which presents a much easier target.
Luckily for him, Gooden is there to be hit. A combination of poor range management, nonexistent head movement, and a tendency to just knuckle down and throw when caught on the fence leave him extremely vulnerable to punchers of Grant’s caliber. As long as Grant is willing to let his hands go and force Gooden back, he should crush him in the opening few minutes.
Prediction: Grant via first-round knockout
I won’t say it’s not a letdown after UFC 252, but Pedro Munhoz vs. Frankie Edgar is one killer main event. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on ESPN 15 fight card this weekend right here, starting with the ESPN+/ESPN “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+/ESPN at 8:30 p.m. ET.
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