Two of the most dynamic strikers in the Bantamweight division lock horns this Saturday (July 24, 2021) when standout contender Cory Sandhagen welcomes former champion T.J. Dillashaw back to the Octagon after 2.5 years away (details here). That’s far from the only Bantamweight attraction on display, however, as Aspen Ladd will take on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) winner Macy Chiasson and Kyler Phillips will attempt to continue his rise at Raulian Paiva’s expense.
Before all that, though, there’s seven “Prelims” undercard bouts to sift through. Let’s dig in ...
135 lbs.: Julio Arce vs. Andre Ewell
Julio Arce (16-4) brought the Ring of Combat Featherweight title into his “Contender Series” appearance, which saw him dismantle Peter Petties en route to a second-round stoppage. He went on to win three of five in the Octagon, both of those defeats coming by split decision.
This will be his first fight in more than 20 months and his first Bantamweight bout since a loss to Brian Kelleher in 2016.
Andre Ewell (17-7) started his UFC run with an upset decision over former champion Renan Barao, and though he lost two of his next three, he got back on track with two consecutive victories. This set up a clash with Chris Gutierrez, who used powerful low kicks to wear down Ewell and claim a decision victory.
He’ll enjoy one inch of height and five inches of reach on Arce.
I was an early believer in Ewell, even (unwisely) picking up to beat Nathaniel Wood and Marlon Vera, but he just hasn’t panned out the way I wanted him to. As impressive as he can be when firing on all cylinders and putting together sharp punching volleys, he’s struggled to consistently control the stand up or deny opponents’ takedowns.
That’s bad news against Arce because beyond having the versatile kickboxing to hold his own on the feet despite the reach disadvantage, he’s a sufficiently skilled grappler to drag Ewell to the mat if things get hairy. Barring some serious rust issues, Arce’s technical skill and well-rounded attack should carry him to a comfortable decision win.
Prediction: Arce via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Sijara Eubanks vs. Elise Reed
Sijara Eubanks (6-6) enjoyed an impressive run on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 26 as a Flyweight and won her first two UFC bouts at 125 pounds before issues with the weight cut forced her to move up. She’s since amassed a 2-4 record at Bantamweight, entering the cage this Saturday on the heels of decision losses to Ketlen Vieira and Pannie Kianzad.
“Sarj” stands one inch taller than Elise Reed (4-0) at 5’4.”
Reed’s lengthy amateur career saw her score five stoppages en route to a 7-1 record before turning pro in 2019. After a debut win in Bellator, she took her talents to Cage Fury, where she won and twice defended their Strawweight title.
She steps in for Priscila Cachoeira on less than one month’s notice.
Moving back to Flyweight, or at least trying to, isn’t going to cure what ails Eubanks. She just hasn’t developed the striking to leverage her punching power and her wrestling is too inconsistent to bring her legitimately world-class ground game to bear against top competition.
She should still be too much for Reed, though. While she’s a terrific offensive striker, Reed’s shaky takedown defense looks ripe for exploitation by the much larger “Sarj,” and even a thoroughly drained Eubanks should be able to lean on her bread and butter. So long as Eubanks isn’t completely D.O.A. after her latest war with the scales, she grinds her way to a comfortable victory despite Reed’s best efforts to strike off of her back.
Prediction: Eubanks via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Diana Belbita vs. Hannah Goldy
Romania’s Diana Belbita (13-6) rode a four-fight win streak into her Octagon debut, which saw her drop a decision to Liverpool’s Molly McCann in Boston. “Warrior Princess” returned to action nine months later, starting strong against Liana Jojua before tapping to an armbar midway through the first round.
Her 10 professional finishes include six knockouts.
Hannah Goldy (5-1) leaned on a high-volume striking attack to defeat Kali Robbins on “Contender Series,” then made her first Octagon walk less than two months later. Miranda Granger proved a tougher nut to crack, out-working Goldy en route to a decision victory.
This marks her first fight in almost two years, as she pulled out of a planned clash with Loma Lookboonmee and two separate meetings with Jessica Penne.
This one really boils down to which Goldy enters the cage. If it’s the nimble, ultra-active counter-striker who pieced up Robbins, she’ll run circles around Belbita. If she’s as gun-shy as she was against Granger and as easy to bully into the fence, Belbita’s raw aggression may be enough to carry her to victory.
I’m going to give Goldy the benefit of the doubt and say Octagon jitters got in her way. That may be a bit optimistic, sure, but Belbita throwing away a winnable fight in favor of diving right into Jojua’s wheelhouse has me thinking that even a subpar Goldy can befuddle her and take her apart. In the end, Goldy sticks and moves her way to a wide decision win.
Prediction: Goldy via unanimous decision
Three more UFC Vegas 32 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including a Heavyweight crossroads match and an intriguing clash of Middleweight prospects. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 32 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.
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