After putting together a 10-fight unbeaten streak, Leon Edwards finally gets his shot at Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) gold this Saturday (Aug. 20, 2022) when he challenges Welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman, inside Vivent Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. Fifteen pounds north, Luke Rockhold returns to the cage against the lethal Paulo Costa, while Alexandr Romanov attempts to continue his rise through the Heavyweight ranks at Marcin Tybura’s expense.
We’ve got four more UFC 278 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict that will set the pay-per-view (PPV) stage (check out the first batch here), which we’ve expertly prepared them for your perusal below. Let’s dig in ...
155 lbs.: Leonardo Santos vs. Jared Gordon
It took him seven years to do it, but The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): Brazil 2 winner, Leonardo Santos (18-6-1) opened his UFC career 7-0-1. The fun wasn’t to last, and he enters the cage this Saturday on the heels of consecutive stoppage losses to Grant Dawson and Clay Guida.
He has submitted nine professional opponents and knocked out another four.
Reeling from a 1-3 skid that saw him knocked out in each defeat, Jared Gordon (18-5) battled his way back into the mix with three consecutive decision victories. This set up a clash with the aforementioned Dawson, who choked him out late in the third round.
“Flash” gives up three inches of height and seven inches of reach to Santos.
This goes one of two ways. Option A sees Santos clip the historically fragile Gordon early with one of the out-of-nowhere death punches he used to fell Kevin Lee and Stevie Ray. Option B sees Gordon exploit Santos’ poor cardio to wear him down for a late finish, and that’s by far the likelier outcome. Santos is far from washed at 42 years old, having held his own against Dawson before the late finish and nearly finished Guida in the opening minutes, but it’s clear that he can no longer sustain his offense for a full 15 minutes.
Gordon, on the other hand, has the sort of gas tank he can weaponize. Though it wouldn’t be surprising to see Santos find early success with his grappling and power shots, he’ll be running on fumes by the time Gordon finishes warming up. In the end, Gordon snowballs in the second and third for a (technical) knockout finish or wide decision.
Prediction: Gordon via third round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Wu Yanan vs. Lucie Pudilova
Wu Yanan (12-5) rebounded from a UFC debut loss to Gina Mazany with a bonus-winning armbar of Lauren Mueller that saw “Mulan” defy 3:1 odds. She’s managed just three fights in nearly four years, coming up short each time via decision.
She faces a 1.5-inch reach disadvantage.
Lucie Pudilova (13-7) put together consecutive wins over Ji Yeon Kim and Sarah Moras before exiting UFC on the heels of four straight losses, though she did secure two post-fight bonuses along the way. She’s since won five of six in her native Czech Republic, most recently in April 2022.
Her four professional finishes are split evenly between knockouts and submissions.
Man, it’s nice to see Pudilova back in the Octagon. She’s not going to challenge for a title anytime soon, but she’s a profoundly violent woman who’s always welcome on my screen.
As for this match up in particular, it’s a battle of Wu’s movement and variety against Pudilova’s aggression and willingness to throw heat. I’ve got Pudilova by a hair. That’s because for all that she dances around the cage, Wu isn’t particularly difficult to hit, and she doesn’t have the offensive wrestling to neutralize Pudilova the way others have in the past. In short, Pudilova’s more eye-catching power shots carry her to a narrow win.
Prediction: Pudilova via split decision
145 lbs.: Sean Woodson vs. Luis Saldana
Starching Terrance McKinney on Contender Series earned Sean Woodson (9-1) a UFC berth, which he opened with a decision over Kyle Bochniak and comeback submission loss to Julian Erosa. Then came consecutive victories over Youssef Zalal and Collin Anglin, the latter of which marked his first Octagon finish.
He stands three inches taller than Luis Saldana (16-7) and boasts a five-inch reach advantage.
Saldana capped off a four-fight winning streak with a front kick knockout of Jordan Griffin on Contender Series, earning a UFC contract along the way. He currently sits at 2-1 in the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion, a decision loss to Austin Lingo sandwiched between decisions over Jordan Griffin and Bruno Souza.
His professional finishes are split 8/6 between submissions and knockouts.
Even with the caveat that a foot injury contributed greatly to his loss to Lingo, Saldana’s prospects look grim, thanks in large part to his inability to fix the cardio issues that have dogged him all through his UFC tenure. While his movement and kicking skills could serve him well against Woodson’s boxing, it’s hard to have much faith in Saldana when he can only execute for about five minutes.
Between Woodson’s height, length and volume, the prognosis seems clear: Saldana finds early success with mobile pot-shotting, only to fall deeper and deeper into a hole as his legs slow down and Woodson finds the mark with increasing regularity. Saldana only wins this by fighting a perfect fight, which he’s failed to do in three UFC appearances, so expect him to get out-sniped.
Prediction: Woodson via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Miranda Maverick vs. Shanna Young
Miranda Maverick (12-4) started her UFC career 2-0 before dropping a robbery decision to Maycee Barber and a far more justifiable one to fast-rising Erin Blanchfield. She last saw action in March 2022, choking out Sabina Mazo for her second finish in the Octagon.
That win marked her seventh by submission and eighth overall by stoppage.
Shanna Young (9-5) fell short on Contender Series against Sarah Alpar before losing her first two UFC bouts to Macy Chiasson and Stephanie Egger. With her back against the wall, “The Shanimal” successfully pounded out Gina Mazany to notch her first Octagon victory.
She gives up a half-inch of reach despite being the taller of the two by four inches.
With all due respect to Young, it’s hard to picture a scenario where she wins this. Every single UFC fighter who’s attempted to take her down has done so, and it wasn’t just because of Young’s poor takedown defense; she willingly clinched up with a judo expert in Egger, which ended about as well as you’d think. Maverick’s going to get plenty of opportunities to get her ground game going and is well-equipped to capitalize.
The big question here isn’t whether Maverick will win, but how long she’ll humor Young on the feet before dragging her down and going to work. Maverick finds her way to Young’s back and squeezes her way to another UFC victory.
Prediction: Maverick via second round submission
Sticking Harry [censored] Hunsucker on a PPV main card may be inexcusable, but at least there’s the main event and Jose Aldo vs. Merab Dvalishvili. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Prediction Record for 2022: 121-59-1
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 278 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ABC/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 278: “Usman vs. Edwards 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.