Someone’s mouth gets shut this Saturday (Sept. 19, 2020) when former champions Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington settle a long-bubbling score at UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. Also at Welterweight, Donald Cerrone looks to end his slump against the ever-destructive Niko Price, while uber-prospect Khamzat Chimaev throws down with Gerald Meerschaert and Johnny Walker faces fellow finisher Ryan Spann.
UFC Vegas 11 features a full slate of eight “Prelims” undercard matches at the moment, all of which join the main card on ESPN+. Let’s get the first four filleted ...
135 lbs.: Journey Newson vs. Randy Costa
Though he brought a six-fight win streak into his UFC debut, Journey Newson (9-2) has yet to notch an official victory in the Octagon. After falling to Ricardo Ramos in his late-notice debut, he leveled Domingo Pilarte in just 38 seconds, only to test positive for marijuana and have the win overturned.
He gives up four inches of height and nearly six inches of reach to Randy Costa (5-1).
“The Zohan,” whose four pre-Octagon fights lasted a combined 2:50, brought the heat in his Octagon debut but ultimately failed to put away Brandon Davis, who withstood the onslaught to choke him out in the second. His sophomore appearance proved more successful, knocking out Boston Salmon in 2:15.
All of his professional and amateur victories have come by form of knockout.
What makes this pick difficult is that while Newson has a grappling background, which will be his key weapon here, he’s yet to demonstrate his offensive chops in the Octagon. He leaned on his boxing against a superior grappler in Ramos and flatlined Pilarte before they could engage on the mat. He won’t want to do that against the much rangier and incredibly heavy-handed Costa, who could easily turn the lights out with a single shot.
I’m working with a lot of unknowns here, especially since we’ve also seen very little of Costa’s defensive wrestling, but I’m leaning Newson, as he ostensibly has enough boxing skills to stay afloat until the takedown presents itself. While Costa could just blow him away in the first two minutes, expect Newson to weather the storm and take over as “The Zohan” runs out of steam.
Prediction: Newson via second-round submission
135 lbs.: Andre Ewell vs. Irwin Rivera
Andre Ewell (16-6) — a former CES champion who’d won eight of nine before joining the world’s largest fight promotion — has alternated wins and losses in the Octagon. His most recent effort saw him claim a controversial decision win over Jonathan Martinez, upping his recent record to 3-2.
He is two inches taller than Irwin Rivera (10-5) and will have a seven-inch reach advantage.
“The Beast” knocked out Matt Wagy for the Titan FC Bantamweight title, then finished Danny Sabatello in similar fashion in his first defense. Though his late-notice Featherweight debut against Giga Chikadze went poorly, he entered the UFC win column with a split decision over Ali AlQaisi last month.
Half of his professional wins have come via (technical) knockout.
I’ll admit to regularly overestimating Ewell, but this looks like his most favorable Octagon matchup to date. Rivera’s lack of reach and limited takedown skills leave Ewell free to unleash his offbeat stand up to its fullest — “The Beast” will have all sorts of trouble bringing his power to bear as Ewell potshots him from long range.
That said, Rivera was willing to wrestle against AlQaisi and I’m long past trusting Ewell’s takedown defense against even striking specialists. He could potentially exploit Ewell’s grappling issues, but more likely, Ewell styles on him for a comfortable decision win.
Prediction: Ewell via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Darrick Minner vs. T.J. Laramie
Darrick Minner (24-11) got the call to welcome Herbert Burns on “Contender Series,” engaging the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace on the ground before tapping to a triangle halfway through the first round. After a pair of wins on the regional circuit, he made his Octagon debut against Grant Dawson, who choked him out early in the second round.
All told, 21 of his 24 wins have come by submission, including all of them since March 2015.
T.J. Laramie (12-3) defeated then-unbeaten Charles Jourdain for the TKO Featherweight Championship, then knocked out Joao Luis Nogueira in his first defense before falling to rival Alex Morgan. He bounced back to win the PFC Featherweight title, then battered Daniel Swain to secure a contract last month.
He faces a five-inch reach disadvantage and a one-inch height disadvantage.
I’m not sure what Minner did to piss off the UFC brass, but this is his third consecutive toxic match up under their purview. Burns and Dawson were his superiors on the mat and Laramie’s excellent takedown defense takes the Nebraskan’s dangerous submission arsenal out of the equation. Between that and his superior boxing, Laramie has everything he needs to sprawl-and-brawl his way to a comfortable victory.
Honestly, Laramie’s top game is solid enough that, were he feeling bold, he could probably take the fight to the mat and still come out victorious in Minner’s wheelhouse. Depending on how eager he is for the finish, “The Truth” either dominates on the end of his jab, catches Minner in a guillotine on a bad shot, or pounds him out from guard.
Prediction: Laramie via second-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Tyson Nam vs. Jerome Rivera
Tyson Nam (19-11-1_ put together a 6-1-1 run to earn himself a UFC contract, but stumbled out of the gate with decision losses to Sergio Pettis and Kai Kara-France. He finally secured his first Octagon victory this past June, knocking out kickboxing standout Zarrukh Adashev in just 32 seconds.
He was slated to face Matt Schnell at Flyweight this past Saturday, but “Danger” ended up knocking himself out during his weight cut.
Jerome Rivera (10-2) fell short against Roberto Sanchez in a bid for the LFA Flyweight title, then suffered a horrific arm injury against Brandon Royval his next time out. He’s since won three straight, including a controversial decision over Luis Rodriguez on “Contender Series” last month.
He has scored seven submission wins as a professional.
To be frank: Rivera clearly lost to Rodriguez. The 30-27s he received and the fact that the announcer shared the scores backwards (as 27-30 and 28-29) has me almost convinced that someone mixed up the fighters along the way. The key to his struggles was his poor follow-through on takedowns. Indeed, even though he sets his shots up well, he’s got poor pummeling and a seeming lack of physical strength in the clinch that leave him unable to secure top position. That’s simply not good enough against a counter-wrestler of Nam’s caliber, and Nam’s the more dangerous striker by a huge margin.
There is, of course, the ever-present chance of Nam dropping a decision while waiting for perfect countering opportunities, but I’m picking him anyway because those opportunities will be there. Rivera is overly linear in his advance, leaves his chin up, and doesn’t set up his kicks, all of which leave him vulnerable to return fire if he misjudges range. He’ll leave himself vulnerable to a fight-ending bomb before long.
Prediction: Nam via first-round technical knockout
Four more UFC Vegas 11 undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including an excellent Flyweight match up and the return of Mirsad Bektic. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 11 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ 8 p.m. ET.
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