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UFC Fight Island 7 predictions: ‘Holloway vs Kattar’ early ‘Prelims’ undercard preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing more “Prelims” fights to ESPN+ this weekend (Sat., Jan. 16, 2021) when UFC Fight Island 7: “Holloway vs. Kattar” returns to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC Fight Island 7 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

UFC Fight Night: Gamrot v Kutateladze Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

The world’s largest fight promotion enters the New Year on a new network (details) this Saturday afternoon (Jan. 16, 2021) when ABC hosts UFC Fight Island 7, which will emanate from Ethiad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. In the main event, Featherweight great Max Holloway has his first non-title fight since 2016 against boxing ace Calvin Kattar, while the co-feature pits former interim champion Carlos Condit against the ever-entertaining Matt Brown.

UFC Fight Island 7 features seven “Prelims” undercard bouts this time around; the first four have been prepared for your perusal below.

265 lbs.: Carlos Felipe vs. Justin Tafa

Initially set to make his Octagon debut in 2017, Carlos Felipe’s (9-1) United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) suspension delayed his Octagon arrival until last July, when he dropped a decision to Sergey Spivak. He entered his sophomore effort against Yorgan De Castro as an underdog, only to out-work the Cuban slugger for his first-ever Octagon victory.

He’ll have a one-inch reach advantage over Justin Tafa (4-1).

Tafa’s Octagon debut wasn’t the triumph he wanted, as he ran headlong into a vicious counter right from Yorgan De Castro two minutes into the first round. Things went a bit smoother against Juan Adams, whom Tafa demolished in rapid fashion.

All four of his professional wins have come by knockout in less than two rounds.

I really like this matchup, and not just because these are promising young guns in a division sorely in need of them. Both men impressed after rough Octagon starts and showed some real potential, Felipe with his gas tank and body attack and Tafa with his raw firepower. Of the two, I have to say I’m more impressed with Felipe, who looks sufficiently durable to drag Tafa into uncomfortably deep water and drown him once there.

Though Tafa could make it interesting if he utilizes takedowns the way he did before his Octagon run, but I like Felipe’s chin and motor to carry him to victory. So long as he avoids getting clipped in the first few minutes, he wears down Felipe for a late finish.

Prediction: Felipe via second-round technical knockout

185 lbs.: David Zawada vs. Ramazan Emeev

David Zawada (17-5) — a sizable underdog — kicked off his Octagon career with a narrow Fight of the Night loss to Danny Roberts. Though he came up short against Li Jingliang his next time out, his return after nearly a year away saw him earn another bonus for his upset submission of Abubakar Nurmagomedov.

This will be his first fight in 14 months, as COVID-19 scrapped an April clash with Anthony Rocco Martin and an Oct. 2020 battle with Mounir Lazzez.

The three-fight UFC win streak for Ramazan Emeev (19-4) came to an end at the hands of Anthony Rocco Martin, who sprawled-and-brawled his way to victory in Moscow. He got back on track eight months later, defeating late-notice newcomer Niklas Stolze on “Fight Island.”

Though the shorter man by two inches, “Gorets” will enjoy a slight reach advantage.

As with all of Emeev’s opponents, Zawada’s chances of success rest entirely on his takedown defense. He landed more strikes against Li than Emeev did in his last two fights combined, so if he can keep it standing, he’ll handily out-work the Dagestani. Unfortunately, history suggests that Zawada won’t have much luck stopping Emeev’s wrestling attack, and he’s not likely finish Emeev off of his back like he did Nurmagomedov.

Sadly, the fight’s entertainment value and Emeev’s control of it will be inversely proportional, but as long as he keeps winning, he has no reason to change that. In short, he grinds out his fifth UFC decision in one-sided fashion.

Prediction: Emeev via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Sarah Moras vs. Vanessa Melo

These two were supposed to fight last year and I’d already written it up before it fell through, so I’ll be abusing copy/paste for this ...

Sarah Moras (6-6) battled her way to a semifinal finish on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 23, then emerged victorious in two of her first three Octagon appearances. “Cheesecake” is just 1-4 since, most recently falling to fellow TUF veteran Sijara Eubanks in May 2020.

Three of her five professional finishes have come by form of knockout.

Vanessa Melo (10-8) put a 5-5 professional start behind her to win five straight, ultimately joining UFC after a decision over veteran Jan Finney. She’s yet to taste victory in the Octagon, going winless (0-3) against Irene Aldana, Tracy Cortez and Karol Rosa.

She gives up two inches of height and reach to Moras.

Even in a weight class as talent-starved as women’s Bantamweight, this looks like a loser-goes-home match up. Moras’ inability to support her submission prowess with competent wrestling and Melo’s lack of power or striking output have left them near the division’s bottom rung.

Moras will never have a number next to her name, but she should be too much for Melo. She’s got the stronger ground game of the two and even if Melo is potentially the better striker, she’s so lackadaisical in her approach that Moras can win on the feet through sheer activity. In the end, “Cheesecake” out-works “Miss Simpatia” to a comfortable decision.

Prediction: Moras via unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Jacob Kilburn vs. Austin Lingo

Though his “Contender Series” bid against Bobby Moffett proved unsuccessful, two more wins in Island Fights led Jacob Kilburn (8-3) to a late-notice Octagon debut in Dec. 2019. There, he faced Billy Quarantillo, who overpowered him on the mat en route to a second-round submission.

He has finished six opponents inside the distance, four via knockout.

Austin Lingo (7-1) entered UFC having stopped his previous three opponents in a combined 63 seconds, making him a decent-sized favorite over fellow newcomer Youssef Zalal. Instead “The Moroccan Devil” battled his way to a wide decision in his first of three 2020 victories. He gives up two inches of reach to Kilburn.

There’s some good news and some bad news for Kilburn. The good news is that the knockout-happy Lingo is unlikely to exploit his awful ground game the way Quarantillo and Moffett did. The bad news is that he’s still in for a bruising. “The Killer’s” willingness to trade doesn’t mesh terribly well with his kicking prowess, so despite his reach advantage, he’s likely to find himself trading heat with Lingo in the pocket; “Lights Out” won’t have to chase him down the way he did Zalal, and that means his power can shine.

Lingo just hits too damn hard for Kilburn’s standard approach to work. Even if Lingo didn’t learn anything from the Zalal debacle, he figures to clip Kilburn in the early going.

Prediction: Lingo via first-round technical knockout

Three more UFC Fight Island 7 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including a clash between two of the Middleweight division’s better prospects. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Island 7 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance at 3 p.m. ET on ABC (also on ESPN+).

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Island 7: “Holloway vs. Kattar” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.