The Bantamweight division looks to further cement itself as one of the best in the sport this Saturday (Sept. 17, 2022) when knockout artists Cory Sandhagen and Song Yadong light up the familiar halls of UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. Also on tap is a brutal Middleweight bout between Chidi Njokuani and Gregory Rodrigues, as well as Featherweight fireworks between Andre Fili and Bill Algeo.
We’ve got four more UFC Vegas 60 “Prelims” to examine before all that, though (check out the first batch here). Let’s dig in ...
185 lbs.: Anthony Hernandez vs. Marc-Andre Barriault
Anthony Hernandez (9-2) breathed new life into his ailing UFC career with a massive upset of Rodolfo Vieira in Feb. 2021. Though injury and other issues kept him out of action for the next 14 months, “Fluffy” made up for lost time with a unanimous decision win over Josh Fremd.
He has scored seven stoppage wins as a professional, six of them via submission.
Marc-Andre Barriault (14-5) initially struggled to find his footing in the Octagon, losing three straight and seeing a knockout of Oskar Piechota overturned because of a failed drug test. “Powerbar” has since won three of four, including finishes of Abu Azaitar and Jordan Wright.
He stands one inch taller than Hernandez, but gives up an inch of reach.
Barriault’s key weapon is attrition — he leans on his power, aggression and durability to fill the technical gaps in his game and take over down the stretch. There are plenty of fighters who that approach works on, but Hernandez isn’t one of them. “Fluffy” is every bit as persistent and well-conditioned with the added bonus of a relentless wrestling game the likes of which Barriault has repeatedly struggled against.
That grappling onslaught is his key to victory. If Barriault has a striking advantage, it’s not significant enough to offset the fact that Hernandez will constantly disrupt it with takedown attempts. Barriault can’t wear down Hernandez when the latter always has an out, though that won’t matter much when Hernandez finds his neck in an early scramble.
Prediction: Hernandez via first round submission
145 lbs.: Damon Jackson vs. Pat Sabatini
A triumphant, bonus-winning submission of Mirsad Bektic earned Damon Jackson (21-4-1) his first UFC victory, though the heavy hands of Ilia Topuria sent him right back into the loss column. Undaunted, “The Leech” enters the cage this Saturday on the heels of three straight wins, among them an arm triangle finish of Contender Series veteran, Kamuela Kirk.
His 18 professional stoppage wins include 15 by submission.
After losing his CFFC title because of a freak arm injury, Pat Sabatini (17-3) reclaimed it two fights later with an armbar finish of Jesse Stirn. He’s since amassed four wins in the Octagon and walked away with a performance bonus for his heel hook finish of Jamall Emmers.
He is the shorter man by three inches and faces a one-inch reach disadvantage.
This fight will be entirely determined by which of these two can consistently take down the other. Both possess suffocating top game and top-notch submission defense, so whoever ends up on his back is probably going to stay there for quite some time. Plus, they’ve each easily dominated fellow wrestlers in recent efforts, so it’s difficult to determine whose grappling will come up short.
With acknowledgement that I regularly underestimate the both of them, I’m giving Sabatini the nod. His routs of Tucker Lutz and T.J. Laramie stand out as the strongest grappling performances on either man’s resume outside of Jackson’s guillotine finish of Bektic, and “The Leech” was losing practically every second of that fight beforehand. In the end, Sabatini fails to find the finish, but still maintains control for the full 15 minutes.
Prediction: Sabatini via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Trevin Giles vs. Louis Cosce
Trevin Giles (14-4) claimed stoppage wins in his first two UFC appearances, then stepped away from the sport for 1.5 years to go through police training, He sits at 3-4 since his return, all of those losses inside the distance.
He’ll enjoy three inches of height and reach on Louis Cosce (7-1).
A 62-second knockout of Victor Reyna earned Cosce a UFC contract and his seventh first-round finish in seven fights. He looked poised to score another in his UFC debut against Sasha Palatnikov, only to fade down the stretch and fall in the third round of UFC 255’s “Fight of the Night.”
This marks his appearance in nearly 22 months.
It’s bizarre how badly Giles has deteriorated since his time at the police academy. Indeed, you can’t even see a glimmer of the fearsome boxing he used to dissect Antonio Braga Neto anymore. Heck, there’s an argument to be made that he should be 1-6 in his last seven, as both James Krause and Roman Dolidze had legitimate arguments for beating him.
On the other hand, Cosce lost to Sasha Palatnikov of all people.
I’ve flip-flopped on this one, thanks in no small part to the fact that Cosce hasn’t fought in almost two years, but I just can’t trust Giles. Between his severe technical decline, poor in-cage decision-making and recent lack of durability, I say Cosce blitzes him out in the first couple minutes, though he’s admittedly toast if it goes past the first round.
Prediction: Cosce via first round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Aspen Ladd vs. Sara McMann
Aspen Ladd (9-3) followed a dominant Invicta run with three consecutive Octagon victories and a pair of post-fight bonuses. She now finds herself in a 1-3 hole, including consecutive losses to Norma Dumont and Raquel Pennington.
She has scored six (technical) knockout finishes and a submission win since turning professional.
Sara McMann (13-6) put a 1-3 skid behind her to win three straight, only to suffer consecutive submission losses. She enters the cage this Saturday at 2-1 in her last three, most recently upsetting Karol Rosa in March 2022.
At 41, she is 14 years older than Ladd.
The narrative here looks the same as all of McMann’s other fights: her terrific wrestling and crushing top game give her the means to control things from bell to bell, but she’ll fold at the slightest bit of adversity. If Ladd gets on top at any point, she’ll almost assuredly find the finish, as her ground-and-pound is more than sufficient to make McMann wilt.
That’s a big “if,” though.
For all that I rag on McMann’s inability to get out of bad spots, Ladd looked completely lost against Dumont and Pennington. She seems unable to muster up the confidence that carried her to early UFC success, and if Pennington could physically bully her, McMann certainly can. In short, McMann grinds her way to an uninspiring victory, but don’t be at all surprised if she flubs something, ends up on her back, and gets blasted into oblivion.
Prediction: McMann via unanimous decision
UFC Vegas 60’s main- and co-main events promise serious violence. Let’s just hope they’re enough to tide us over during the looming break. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Prediction Record for 2022: 136-65-2
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 60 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/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.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 60: “Sandhagen vs. Yadong” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
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