Brazilian grappling phenom, Jailton Almeida, looks to continue his torrid rise through the Heavyweight ranks this Saturday (May 13, 2023) when he battles knockout artist, Jairzinho Rozenstruik, inside Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. UFC’s return to ABC also features a Light Heavyweight co-feature pitting Anthony Smith against Johnny Walker and Welterweight prospect Ian Machado Garry’s stiffest test to date against Daniel Rodriguez.
ESPN/ESPN+ hosts eight UFC Charlotte “Prelims” undercard bouts this time around. Here’s the first batch ...
155 lbs.: Natan Levy vs. Pete Rodriguez
This was supposed to happen at UFC Vegas 72 (details here).
After choking out Shaheen Santana on Contender Series, Natan Levy (8-1) spent one year on the sidelines injured, ultimately returning to the Octagon in Nov. 2020 to drop a decision to Rafa Garcia. His 2022 campaign proved more fruitful, resulting in consecutive decision victories over Mike Breeden and Genaro Valdez.
His height and reach are identical to those of Pete Rodriguez (5-1).
An admirably bold short-notice UFC debut saw Rodriguez stopped in three minutes by Jack Della Maddalena. He was quite a bit more successful against Mike Jackson, flattening “The Truth” in just 93 seconds.
None of his five knockout wins have gone past the 2:21 mark.
Though Levy had a lot more trouble than I expected against the very limited Valdez, there’s a lot going his way here. Rodriguez has never faced a takedown artist even remotely comparable to Levy, who’s shown off enough durability and technique to hold his own on the feet. Nothing Rodriguez has shown so far indicated that he’ll have an answer when Levy starts firing off double-digit takedowns.
It’s admittedly hard to get a bead on where exactly Rodriguez stands because losing to a monster like Della Maddalena and knocking out the likes of Jackson are to be expected of virtually any UFC fighter. Still, I’m confident that Levy’s wrestling and experience will let him grind out a wide decision.
Prediction: Levy via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Ji Yeon Kim vs. Mandy Bohm
Yet another rescheduling, this one from UFC Vegas 68.
Ji Yeon Kim (9-6-2) put a UFC debut loss to Lucie Pudilova behind her to win three of her next four, including a technical knockout finish of Nadia Kassem. “Fire Fist” has since lost four straight, though her decision defeat to Priscila Cachoeira came with no shortage of controversy.
She’ll enjoy an inch of reach over Mandy Bohm (7-2).
Bohm spent the first portion of her career on the German circuit, after which she beat Jade Masson-Wong for the TKO Flyweight title and won her sole Bellator appearance against Griet Eeckhout. Those would be her last victories to date, however, dropping consecutive decisions to Ariane Lipski and Victoria Leonardo in the Octagon.
She has knocked out and submitted two professional foes apiece.
I didn’t expect Bohm to set the world on fire, but man, she’s been underwhelming in the Octagon. She looks almost lethargic in there, rarely showing off the solid kicks or dangerous clinch work that brought her victory in other organizations, and she still declines drastically as fights progress despite pushing such a low pace.
If nothing else, Kim is extremely busy in the cage. Even if Bohm does manage to play keep-away early on, Kim will be the one doing damage, especially as the rounds go by and Bohm’s gas tank gives out. In the end, Kim finally gets back on track by out-working Bohm to a wide decision.
Prediction: Kim via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Bryan Battle vs. Gabe Green
Bryan Battle (9-2) followed his successful The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 29 run by out-lasting castmate, Tresean Gore, and subsequently flattening Takashi Sato with a bonus-winning 44-second head kick. He then stepped up on short notice to battle Rinat Fakhretdinov, who dominated “Pooh Bear” on the mat over three one-sided rounds.
He steps in for Jake Matthews on less than two months’ notice.
Gabe Green (11-4) put a short-notice UFC debut loss to Daniel Rodriguez behind him with back-to-back wins over Philip Rowe and Yohan Lainesse. Ian Machado Garry proved a step too far, evening Green’s Octagon record at 2-2 with a comfortable decision victory.
All but one of Green’s 11 victories have come inside the distance, six of them via submission.
As suffocating as his pressure can be, “Gifted” is not a good cage cutter. He relies heavily on output and forward motion to whittle opponents down until they can no longer out-maneuver his basic approach. That didn’t work on Garry — who moves well and has an excellent engine — and doesn’t figure to work on Battle, either. Though Green can wrestle, he’s not in the same universe as Fakhretdinov. And if he can’t take down Battle, he’ll be hard-pressed to corral someone who ran circles around Gore and Andre Petroski.
Unless the short notice completely drains the life from Battle, he’s too tall, rangy and adept at a distance to lose this. In short, expect him to potshot his way to victory over 15 minutes.
Prediction: Battle via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Tainara Lisboa (5-2)
Jessica-Rose Clark (11-8) started her UFC career 2-1 as a Flyweight before issues with the weight cut sent her to 135 pounds. She currently sits at 2-3 in her new weight class, most recently suffering back-to-back submission losses to Stephanie Egger and Julija Stoliarenko.
She is the shorter of the two by an inch.
Lisboa fell short against Norma Dumont in her 2016 professional debut before spending the next three years on the sidelines. She enters the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion in the midst of a three-fight win streak, the most recent of which saw her choke out Conceicao Oliveira in April 2022.
Her five professional finishes are split 3:2 between knockouts and submissions.
It’s tough to get a bead on Lisboa. That’s because she’s got a strong Muay Thai pedigree and seems to know what she’s doing in the cage, but her strength of schedule is nonexistent. Just one of her MMA victories came over an opponent with a win on their record, which isn’t enough to prepare her for even a barren UFC Bantamweight division. While Clark is plenty limited in her own right, her clinch can be exhausting to deal with. Lisboa is by far the more dangerous striker on the inside, but there’s no evidence to suggest she can keep the fight standing long enough to make that matter.
Just because she hasn’t shown it yet doesn’t mean she can’t, of course, especially since she’s had a year on the sidelines to sharpen her fangs behind the scenes. Between Clark’s experience and her debilitating style, though, odds are “Jessy Jess” weathers the early storm and grinds Lisboa into oblivion.
Prediction: Clark via unanimous decision
Four more UFC Charlotte “Prelims” bouts remain to preview and predict, including the latest from rising Light Heavyweight, Carlos Ulberg. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Charlotte fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ABC/ESPN+ at 3 p.m. ET.
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