After a successful return to “Fight Island” this past weekend, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) continues its residency inside Flash Forum in Aabu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, this Saturday (Oct. 3, 2020) with women’s Bantamweight contenders Holly Holm and Irene Aldana in the spotlight. UFC Fight Island 4 also features a high-octane Heavyweight co-feature between Yorgan de Castro and Carlos Felipe alongside another major Bantamweight bout that pits Germaine De Randamie against Raquel Pennington.
We’ve got seven “Prelims” undercard bouts to get through before all that, though, so buckle up ...
185 lbs.: Jordan Williams vs. Nassourdine Imavov
Jordan Williams’ (9-3) first two “Contender Series” appearances saw him pound out Tim Caron (a win later overturned to a “No Contest” after he tested positive for marijuana) and lose a razor-thin decision to the heavily-favored Ramazan Kuramagomedov. The third time proved the charm when he knocked out Gregory Rodrigues to secure a UFC contract just two weeks ago.
He’s scored seven professional knockouts and one submission.
Nassourdine Imavov (8-2) — who trains alongside Heavyweight contenders Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane — is unbeaten in the cage since starting his career 3-2. His knockout of UFC veteran Jonathan Meunier in Dec. 2019 was meant to set up a “Contender Series” bout with Gregory Rodrigues, only for Imavov to withdraw and Williams to take his place.
“The Russian Sniper” is the taller man by three inches, but faces a slight reach disadvantage.
As “Contender Series” announcers regularly mentioned, Williams can’t cut weight because of his diabetes, which usually leaves him out-sized by his opponents. Luckily for him, Imavov is a long-time Welterweight despite his height, and while he’s the sharper and faster striker of the two, I’m not sure he has the firepower to crack Williams’ rock-solid chin without extra weight to lean on.
Williams isn’t invincible, of course. Indeed, Dwight Grant knocked him stiff at one point with a counter overhand. He is, however, ridiculously persistent, and Imavov’s unproven wrestling and tendency to leave his head in the pocket both look like exploitable weaknesses. In the end, Williams marches through fire to wear down Imavov with volume and ultimately put him down late.
Prediction: Williams via third-round technical knockout
115 lbs.: Loma Lookboonmee vs. Jinh Yu Frey
Loma Lookboonmee (4-2) bounced back from her first career mixed martial arts (MMA) defeat to win her Invicta debut and edge out Aleksandra Albu in her inaugural Octagon appearance in Oct. 2019. Then came Angela Hill, who stepped up on short notice to out-slug Lookboonmee in Auckland.
She is Jinh Yu Frey’s (9-5) junior by 11 years.
Frey defeated Minna Grusander for the Invicta Atomweight belt in 2018, then defended it with a win in their rematch and a decision over Ashley Cummins. Four months later, she made her Octagon debut against Kay Hansen, who choked her out midway through the third round.
She has one knockout and two submissions under her belt as a professional.
The biggest barrier between Lookboonmee and high-level success is her lack of size. Therefore, against another natural Atomweight, the Thai technician figures to shine. She’s a more active and destructive striker than Frey, who lacks the takedown prowess necessary to take Lookboonmee out of her comfort zone. Unless Frey can pull Lookboonmee — who’s landed more than twice as many strikes per minute in the Octagon — into her preferred slow-paced trudge, Lookboonmee should overwhelm her without issue.
Frey’s nonexistent output always leaves her vulnerable to fights slipping away from her, and the hyper-busy Lookboonmee has the tools to take full advantage of that. She out-works, out-lands and overpowers Frey in a Muay Thai clinic.
Prediction: Lookboonmee via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Casey Kenney vs. Alateng Heili
Casey Kenney (14-2-1) started his Octagon run with upset decisions over Ray Borg and Manny Bermudez, but failed to blunt the takedown onslaught of Merab Dvalishvili. He got back on track in May by choking out Louis Smolka for his first submission victory since 2017.
Half his wins have come by stoppage, five of them by submission.
Alateng Heili (14-7-1) put together an 8-1 run to earn a spot in the UFC, where he warred his way past Danaa Batgerel in a Shenzhen Fight of the Night. His sophomore effort pitted him against Ryan Benoit, whom he defeated by split decision thanks to a strong late effort.
He stands two inches shorter than Kenney and gives up more than three inches of reach.
Though Alateng boasts some gnarly power in his right hand, his general lack of output leaves him to rely on his wrestling to bail him out when the knockout isn’t there. That’s not going to work against Kenney, a far stronger grappler with enough striking chops to hold his own on the feet. “The Mongolian Warrior” will need a knockout to get the win, and between Kenney’s length and Alateng’s own reluctance to let his hands go, that doesn’t strike me as terribly likely.
I honestly see Kenney as a sleeper contender at 135 pounds, maybe not champion material but certainly a very capable fighter. While Alateng has the tools to be the same, he’ll need to massively up the aggression to catch up. In short, Kenney overpowers him on the mat for a wide decision win.
Prediction: Kenney via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Jessin Ayari vs. Luigi Vendramini
Germany’s Jessin Ayari brought a six-fight win streak into his Octagon debut, then made it seven with a split decision over “Judo” Jim Wallhead. He has not tasted victory since, falling to Darren Till and dropping a controversial decision to Stevie Ray more than one year later.
He’ll enjoy a four-inch reach advantage.
Luigi Vendramini (8-1) knocked out and submitted four opponents apiece en route to facing Elizeu Zaleski on a 15-day turnaround. The short notice and move up in weight did him no favors, as “Capoeira” leveled him early in the second round.
Like Ayari, he has not fought since Oct. 2018.
The worst kinds of fights to pick are ones in which at least one of the participants hasn’t seen action for an extremely long time. Few other sports can produce more improvement in a shorter timespan than MMA, resulting in fighters that look nothing like their former selves once they re-enter the cage. Keep that in mind when this prediction inevitably proves laughably flawed.
I like what I saw out of Ayari’s pre-layoff career more than I do Vendramini’s. The German’s size and strength suggest he can bully Vendramini the way Zaleski did, and his length should allow him to do so without being in danger of Vendramini attacking his back. Ayari pressures and outstrikes him for his first since 2016.
Prediction: Ayari via unanimous decision
Three more UFC Fight Island 4 undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, among them the latest from Kyler Phillips and the inimitable Carlos Condit. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Island 4 fight card this weekend right here, starting with the ESPN+/ESPN “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+/ESPN at 10:30 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Island 4: “Holm vs. Aldana” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
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