Anthony Smith and Ryan Spann have combined for 49 finishes in 54 wins, and they’ll look to add yet another stoppage to the list at each others’ expense this Saturday (Sept. 18, 2021) when they headline UFC Vegas 37, which will take place inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. Another tasty Light Heavyweight match up pits Ion Cutelaba against Devin Clark, while Octagon newcomers Nikolas Motta and Cameron VanCamp look to steal the show at 155 pounds.
UFC Vegas 37 features a hefty nine “Prelims” undercard bouts this time around, so let’s get cracking on the first batch ...
135 lbs.: Montel Jackson vs. J.P. Buys
Montel Jackson (10-2) rebounded from his UFC debut loss to Ricky Simon with three consecutive wins, only to fall just short against veteran Brett Johns in July 2020. Undaunted, “Quik” returned to the win column in March 2021 with a two-minute knockout of Jesse Strader.
He stands five inches taller than J.P. Buys (9-3) and will have an 8.5-inch reach advantage.
Three years after falling to Joby Sanchez in his first “Contender Series” bid, Buys redeemed himself with a contract-winning performance against Jacob Silva. Four months later, he made his UFC debut against Bruno Silva, who handed “Young Savage” his third professional defeat midway through the second round.
He steps in for Danaa Batgerel, who ran into visa issues, on just under one month’s notice.
What struck me about Buys’ loss to Silva wasn’t that he came up short, but that he seemed terrified to even attempt a takedown. Even when Silva had thoroughly proven his superiority on the feet, Buys just went on trading with him. He’d be in trouble against Jackson even if I could trust him to execute his gameplan, as “Quik” is one of the biggest and heaviest-handed Bantamweights on the roster. Knowing that he’s every bit as likely to screw himself over again is just icing on the cake.
Buys theoretically has the skills to win this, as Jackson has struggled with persistent takedown artists in the past. Between the size difference, Jackson’s punching power, and Buys’ seeming inability to fight to the best of his abilities, though, that strikes me as a pipedream. Jackson puts him down with heavy strikes in the first round.
Prediction: Jackson via first round technical knockout
125 lbs.: Erin Blanchfield vs. Sarah Alpar
Erin Blanchfield (6-1) won her first three professional fights, including a majority decision over current UFC standout Kay Hansen, before narrowly falling to Tracy Cortez. “Cold Blooded” has since won three straight, among them a head kick finish of Victoria Leonardo.
This will be her first fight in over a year, as a planned April debut against Norma Dumont fell through when the latter badly missed weight.
Sarah Alpar (9-5) brought the LFA Bantamweight title into the Contender Series, where she choked out Shanna Young to earn herself a UFC contract. After one year on the sidelines, “Too Sweet” made her Octagon debut proper against Jessca-Rose Clark, who stopped her with strikes late in the third round.
She has knocked out and submitted two professional opponents apiece.
Blanchfield is a legitimately excellent prospect, a top-notch ground artist whose striking and wrestling are quickly catching up. I was impressed enough to pick her against Dumont despite the late notice and Dumont’s enormous size advantage, and while she didn’t get a chance to prove me right, I like her to make a triumphant debut here.
Alpar generally relies on her well-credentialed wrestling to compensate for her limited standup, and while her cut from Bantamweight to Flyweight should make that strategy more effective, it puts her in a lose-lose situation here. Blanchfield’s both the superior kickboxer and the more lethal jiu-jitsu specialist, meaning Alpar’s only shot at victory is to grind her out against the cage or from guard. That doesn’t sound particularly plausible to me, so expect Blanchfield to find the finish around the midway point.
Prediction: Blanchfield via second round submission
170 lbs.: Impa Kasanganay vs. Carlston Harris
Impa Kasanganay (9-1) went undefeated (2-0) on “Contender Series” before beating Maki Pitolo on an 18-day turnaround in his Octagon debut. While he came up short against Joaquin Buckley his next time out, he made a successful Welterweight debut in April 2021 by choking out Sasha Palatnikov.
“Tshilobo” gives up one inch of height and reach to “Mocambique.”
Guyana’s Carlston Harris (16-4) kicked off 2021 by choking out Saygid Izagakhmaev on Dana White’s “Lookin’ for a Fight,” earning himself a UFC contract in the process. Four months later, he dispatched Christian Aguilera with a bonus-winning anaconda choke to improve his current run to 8-1.
He has submitted five foes and knocked out another four.
Though Kasanganay has the potential to ultimately eclipse Harris, he’s not quite there yet. Beyond his edge in professional experience, Harris is the harder puncher, the more proven wrestler, and the more dangerous submission artist. Kasanganay can’t lean on his takedowns the way he did against Palatnikov and I’m not sure he hits hard enough to keep “Mocambique” from marching into the clinch and turning on his customary grind.
Again, Kasanganay is still young and extremely gifted, so I won’t be surprised if he’s already fixed the issues Harris looks poised to exploit.. I just have to lean towards the more proven product, especially since Kasanganay’s most recent gameplan plays right into Harris’ hands. In the end, Harris finds his neck early.
Prediction: Harris via first round submission
135 lbs.: Gustavo Lopez vs. Alatengheili
Five months after an unsuccessful ultra-short-notice UFC debut against Merab Dvalishvili, Gustavo Lopez (12-6) clubbed-and-subbed Anthony Birchak for his first-ever Octagon victory. His efforts earned him a fight with another top prospect in Adrian Yanez, who stopped Lopez with a vicious counter right early in the third round.
He has ended all but one of his professional victories inside the distance, six of them by submission.
Alatengheili (14-8-1) started his UFC career strong with decisions over Danaa Batgerel and Ryan Benoit, the former of which earned him “Fight of the Night” honors. “The Mongolian Knight” couldn’t quite keep the momentum going against Casey Kenney, showing admirable heart but ultimately falling short in Oct. 2020.
He has scored seven stoppage wins as a professional.
While his one-sided loss to Kenney showed Alatengheili’s ceiling, I actually like his chances here. Strong wrestling and sharp right hands have vexed Lopez in his two UFC losses, and Alatengheili’s got both in spades alongside some impressive durability.
There is, however, the question of volume. Alatengheili is a remarkably low-output striker, so even if he can take Lopez’s best shot and stay standing, there’s a very real possibility that Lopez rides his superior output to victory. With enough power to keep Lopez honest and the takedown skills to offset the numbers differential with top control, though, I like Alatengheili to narrowly seize his third UFC victory.
Prediction: Alatengheili via split decision
125 lbs.: Emily Whitmire vs. Hannah Goldy
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 26 veteran, Emily Whitmire (4-4), put a UFC debut loss to castmate Gillian Robertson behind her to win two straight over Jamie Moyle and Aleksandra Albu. The brass rewarded her success by pitting her against two top prospects, resulting in submission losses to Amanda Ribas and Polyana Viana.
She fights for the first time in more than one year.
Hannah Goldy (5-2) went from beating Kali Robbins on “Contender Series” to fighting Miranda Granger in the Octagon less than two months later, though the quick turnaround didn’t save her from her first pro defeat. COVID and other woes kept her out of action until July 2021, when she dropped a decision to Diana Belbita.
She replaces Cory McKenna on just under one month’s notice.
If even the very limited Belbita managed to exploit Goldy’s leaky defense and tendency to back straight up, I don’t see the rest of her UFC tenure playing out favorably. “24K” relies on peppering opponents at range with high-volume strikes, and now that opponents know they can just march forward and she’ll back herself to the fence, that strategy’s going to get less and less effective.
Don’t let her losses to elite grapplers in Ribas and Viana fool you; Whitmire’s striking and grappling skills make her well-equipped to punish Goldy’s lapses. She powers through Goldy’s long-range volleys to rack up clean strikes and top control.
Prediction: Whitmire via unanimous decision
Four more UFC Vegas 37 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including a clash of Light Heavyweight knockout artists and the latest from Bantamweight contender Tony Gravely. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 37 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.
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