One of the most promising Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) up-and-comers meets one of its most popular veterans this Saturday (Sept. 10, 2022) when Khamzat Chimaev squares off with Nate Diaz atop UFC 279. T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, will also host what could be Tony Ferguson’s last hurrah against the ultra-dangerous Li Jingliang and the return of rising Welterweight Daniel Rodriguez against Kevin Holland.
We’ve a hefty eight “Prelims” undercard matches to get through before the pay-per-view (PPV) portion, though. Here’s the first four, which air on ESPN+/Fight Pass.
145 lbs.: Norma Dumont vs. Danyelle Wolf
After suffering a knockout loss to Megan Anderson in her UFC debut, Norma Dumont (7-2) got back on track by winning three straight, including a five-round main event against Aspen Ladd. That momentum wasn’t enough to carry her past Macy Chiasson, though, as the former The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) winner out-dueled her to a split decision win.
She gives up four inches of height and three inches of reach to Wolf.
Danyelle Wolf (1-0) put together an impressive list of accomplishments in amateur boxing before turning her talents to mixed martial arts (MMA) when the Olympics excluded her weight class. Her professional debut came on Contender Series, where she took a controversial decision over unbeaten Taneisha Tennant.
She fights for the first time in almost two years.
For Wolf’s sake, she better have improved during her time away. Dumont beats the Contender Series iteration of Wolf without issue. That’s because the latter was very fortunate to escape with the victory, showing both a limited striking arsenal outside of jabs and crosses and a weak bottom game. Based on that performance, Dumont can hold her own on the feet and has shown off enough wrestling skills to ruin Wolf’s day on the mat.
I’m not saying Wolf couldn’t have turned things around behind the scenes, but she’s 38, a late entrant to MMA, and her primary skillset failed to impress last time. It would be a shock if Dumont didn’t dominate this one with her standard gameplan.
Prediction: Dumont via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Chad Anheliger vs. Alatengheili
Chad Anheliger (12-5) followed his knockout of future TUF finalist, Brady Hiestand, with an upset split decision over Muin Gafarov on Contender Series. His subsequent UFC debut pitted him against Jesse Strader, whom he stopped in violent fashion late in the third round.
He’s knocked out seven professional foes and submitted three others.
Alatengheili (15-8-2) started his UFC career strong with decisions over Batgerel Danaa and Ryan Benoit, only to suffer a one-sided loss to Casey Kenney and a unanimous draw against Gustavo Lopez. “The Mongolian Knight” returned to the win column in dramatic fashion in April 2022, however, knocking out Kevin Croom in just 47 seconds.
He’ll have a two-inch reach advantage despite being the shorter of the two.
This seems like a profoundly unfavorable match up for Anheliger. Alatengheili has proven himself powerful enough to hurt Anheliger, who spent two rounds getting out-landed by the technically limited Jesse Strader, and also boasts a strong offensive wrestling game that he used to earn his first two Octagon victories. Getting taken down five times by a capable grappler in Gafurov is one thing, but surrendering four takedowns to Strader is a serious red flag for Anheliger’s ability to keep it on the feet.
Anheliger can’t even bank on out-working Alatengheili when the latter can bring him to the mat whenever things get hairy. Barring a brain fart from Alatengheili like the one that cost him a point against Lopez, he mixes eye-catching power shots with regular takedowns to secure a decision.
Prediction: Alatengheili via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Melissa Martinez vs. Elise Reed
One fight into her professional career, Melissa Martinez (7-0) took her talents to Combate, ending four of her first five promotion bouts inside the distance. Her efforts earned her a title shot against Desiree Yanez, which “Super Melly” made the most of with a split decision win.
This marks her first MMA bout in nearly three years, taking a hiatus to focus on kickboxing.
Elise Reed (5-2) — a former CFFC champion — put a UFC debut loss to Sijara Eubanks behind her to upset Cory McKenna via split decision. Two months later, she faced Sam Hughes, who overpowered Reed with wrestling and ground-and-pound for a third round stoppage.
She steps in for Hannah Cifers on two months’ notice.
I’m in a bit of a weird spot with this prediction. Reed likely beats the last version of Martinez who entered the cage because “Super Melly” had clear power and potential; however, she was far from a finished product and would have struggled with Reed’s more polished kickboxing. Thing is, that Martinez was from 2019, and she’s spent the last three years practicing pure striking.
In short, odds are that we see a much, much better Martinez come fight night.
With the caveat that this is pure conjecture on my part, I’ll go with Martinez. Reed lacks the wrestling to throw Martinez off her game and the power difference by itself may be enough to earn Martinez the nod. In the end, the new — hypothetically improved — Martinez tears up Reed’s leg and lands enough heavy blows to sway the judges.
Prediction: Martinez via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Darian Weeks vs. Yohan Lainesse
Darian Weeks’ (5-2) short-notice UFC debut saw him fight Bryan Barberena to a competitive decision loss at the APEX. He got no favors in his second effort, which saw him drop another decision to unbeaten Irishman, Ian Machado Garry.
He’s ended all five of his professional wins inside of two rounds.
Yohan Lainesse (8-1) went from finishing Evan Cutts for CFFC’s Welterweight title to crushing Justin Burlinson in 97 seconds on Contender Series. He then started strong in his promotional debut against Gabe Green, but succumbed to “Gifted’s” pressure late in the second.
He’ll have a 3.5-inch reach advantage on fight night.
I know I’ve had bad luck backing fighters with questionable cardio recently, but I find myself leaning toward Lainesse. Weeks just hasn’t impressed me in the Octagon — that wrestling of his wasn’t sufficient to neutralize Barberena and he had very little to offer Garry on the feet. Lainesse has a clear edge in punching power and enough grappling chops of his own to keep Weeks from grinding out a win on top.
That’s true for the first round, at least. The question is how long Lainesse can actually keep that up. He’s burned himself out in record time before, and considering Weeks managed to land more than 100 significant strikes on Barberena, that gas tank will definitely be taxed. Still, he should be able to do enough damage early and survive late to eke out the win.
Prediction: Lainesse via split decision
Four more UFC 279 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including what looks like an absolute banger between Hakeem Dawodu vs. Julian Erosa. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 279 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 ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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