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UFC Nashville predictions: Late ‘Prelims’ undercard preview | Sandhagen vs. Font

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing more “Prelims” fights to ESPN/ESPN+ this weekend (Sat., Aug. 5, 2023) when UFC Nashville: “Sandhagen vs. Font” storms Bridgestone Arena in Tennessee.’s Patrick Stumberg continues the UFC Nashville “Prelims” party with the second (and final) installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

The Ultimate Fighter Finale: Sullivan v Waters Photo by Mitch Viquez/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

The bottomless sea of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight talent produces another quality matchup this Saturday (Aug. 5, 2023) when Rob Font steps up on short notice to battle Cory Sandhagen inside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., simulcasting live on ESPN+/ESPN. UFC Nashville will also feature Tatiana Suarez’s clash with the free-falling Jessica Andrade, Gavin Tucker’s return to action opposite Diego Lopes and much more.

We’ve got fourmore UFC Nashville “Prelims” undercard bouts to examine first, though (checkout the first batch here). Let’s dig in ...

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 79 On ESPN+

HIGH STAKES LIGHTWEIGHT MATCHUP! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to UFC APEX on Sat., Sept. 23, 2023, with a high stakes 155-pound showdown as No. 6-ranked contender, Rafael Fiziev, takes on No. 7-seeded Mateusz Gamrot. In UFC Vegas 79’s co-main event, No. 12-ranked Featherweight contender, Bryce Mitchell, steps back into the Octagon against No. 13-seeded Dan Ige.

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

135 lbs.: Kyler Phillips vs. Raoni Barcelos

Kyler Philips (10-2) torched James Gray on Contender Series to earn a spot on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 27, where he promptly lost a decision to Brad Katona. He ultimately joined UFC two years later, racking up a 4-1 record with three post-fight bonuses.

He steps in for the injured Said Nurmagomedov on around two weeks’ notice for his first fight in 18 months.

Raonia Barcelos (17-4) kicked off his UFC career with a “Fight of the Night” finish of Kurt Holobaugh, kicking off a 5-0 run in the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion. He’s now 1-3 in his last four and was last seen suffering a one-punch knockout loss to Umar Nurmagomedov in Jan. 2023.

He’s knocked out eight professional foes and submitted two others.

I would honestly still favor Barcelos over many UFC Bantamweights. Indeed, I fully expected him to run over Miles Johns before the latter withdrew at the eleventh hour. With his recent struggles, though, I’m not sure he has it in him to beat Phillips. He had tons of issues with a fast, versatile striker in Timur Valiev and failed to keep up with Victor Henry, suggesting the younger Phillips can out-hustle him.

Phillips does have some lingering questions after his United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) suspension and will definitely struggle with Barcelos’ boxing if he’s at all rusty. That said, he should still have enough weapons in his arsenal to edge the Brazilian out in a high-octane striking match.

Prediction: Phillips via split decision

170 lbs.: Jeremiah Wells vs. Carlston Harris

Jeremiah Wells (12-2-1) won titles in CFFC and CES before joining UFC in 2021 with a dramatic knockout of Warlley Alves. Similarly impressive finishes of Mike Mathetha and Court McGee followed, though he had to settle for a split decision over Matthew Semelsberger after battling through heavy knockdowns.

He stands three inches shorter than Carlston Harris (18-5) and gives up two inches of reach.

Harris made his name with a shock upset of Saygid Izagakhmaev on “Lookin’ for a Fight,” then followed up with first-round finishes of Christian Aguilera and Impa Kasanganay. Though he fell short against Shavkat Rakhmonov, he returned to the win column in March 2023 by winning a decision over Jared Gordon.

He’s knocked out and submitted five professional foes apiece.

This is going to be an entertainingly stupid battle between awkward sluggers with surprisingly lethal ground games. For my money, Harris has a slight edge. That’s because Wells took a ton of damage from Semelsberger before turning it into a grindfest, which Harris’ stout wrestling and front chokes make non-viable.

Each man can flip the fight on its head on a moment’s notice, but Harris just seems to have the weapons to shut down both Wells’ Plan A and Plan B. So long as he doesn’t get clipped, “Mocambique” clubs-and-subs Wells for another quick finish.

Prediction: Harris via first round submission

145 lbs.: Billy Quarantillo vs. Damon Jackson

After earning him a contract on Contender Series, the insane pace of Billy Quarantillo (17-5) carried him to a perfect (3-0) UFC start. He’s since alternated losses and wins, most recently suffering his first knockout loss since 2016 at the knee of Edson Barboza.

He gives up an inch of height and reach to Damon Jackson (22-5-1).

The UFC return of “The Leech” saw him split a pair of fights with Mirsad Bektic and Ilia Topuria before battling his way to a four-fight win streak. His efforts earned him a crack at Dan Ige, who stopped Jackson with a nasty left hook late in the second round.

Fifteen of his 19 professional stoppages have come via submission.

This is one of those fights that’s a toss up, but probably isn’t going to be competitive moment-to-moment. Quarantillo’s wrestling is miles behind Jackson’s and he has no answers for Jackson’s top game. As long as Jackson’s fresh, he’ll manhandle Quarantillo with little issue. Conversely, Jackson completely froze up against Ige and has a history of chin issues. If he shows any sign of fatigue against Quarantillo, he’s going to get absolutely smothered in power shots.

In short, the fight really comes down to when Jackson’s foot slips off the gas. Quarantillo will be helpless in the early going, but he’ll take over the second he gets the flurries flowing and starts forcing bad shots. With the caveat that I’m often wrong about Jackson, I say Quarantillo gets the attrition going late in the second and polishes him off in the third round.

Prediction: Quarantillo via third round technical knockout

145 lbs.: Sean Woodson vs. Dennis Buzukja

Woodson (9-1-1) outclassed Kyle Bochniak in his UFC debut and looked poised to do the same to Julian Erosa, only to suffer a comeback submission loss midway through the third round. He rebounded with victories over Youssef Zalal and Collin Anglin, but settled for a split draw with Luis Saldana after getting dropped early and hurt by an illegal knee.

He’ll enjoy five inches of height and nearly nine inches of reach on Buzukja.

Team Longo-Weidman’s Buzukja (11-2) took a crack at the Contender Series in his sixth pro fight, only to fall short against Melsik Baghdasaryan. He’s flawless since, picking up a win in his DWCS return and most recently scoring a submission win in June 2023.

He takes this fight on four days’ notice, becoming Woodson’s fourth scheduled opponent to date.

Of those four opponents, I’d tab him as the second-biggest threat behind original foe Steve Garcia. Buzukja has excellent striking fundamentals and some decent wrestling in his back pocket that, if he can bring them to bear, pose a threat to Woodson. What he doesn’t have, however, is anything that can deal with Woodson’s length. Buzukja’s jab is great, but his footwork seems like it will let him down.

I just don’t see Buzukja consistently getting into the pocket amid Woodson’s barrage of straight punches, especially since Buzukja has a tendency to keep his left hand low. Woodson potshots him to a wide decision win.

Prediction: Woodson via unanimous decision

Even with the litany of injuries, withdrawals and other issues dragging down UFC Nashville, it’s main event between Sandhagen vs. Font is can’t-miss stuff. See you Saturday, Maniacs.

Current Prediction Record for 2023: 106-69-1 (2 NC)

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Nashville fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN/ESPN+) at 9 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Nashville: “Sandhagen vs. Font” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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