The most colorful Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight battles its winningest this Saturday (Aug. 19, 2023) when Sean O’Malley challenges Aljamain Sterling for the 135-pound strap. TD Garden in Boston, Mass., will also see Strawweight queenpin, Zhang Weili, look for her another highlight-reel finish against top contender, Amanda Lemos, and Neil Magny steps up on short notice to challenge Ian Machado Garry.
UFC 292 features seven “Prelims” undercard bouts at the time of this writing, but one won’t be confirmed until after the final episode of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 31 concludes tomorrow evening; therefore, , so you’ll have to settle for six breakdowns.
Here’s the first three, which air on ESPN+:
185 lbs.: Andre Petroski vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Andre Petroski (9-1) — an early favorite on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 26 — saw his run stopped in the semifinals by Bryan Battle’s ninja choke. He’s been more successful in the Octagon itself, scoring four dominant victories that include a 76-second finish of Nick Maximov.
He is the shorter man by one inch and will have to overcome a 4.5-inch reach disadvantage.
Reeling from losses in five of his previous seven fights, Gerald Meerschaert (35-16) clawed his way back into contention with four stoppage wins in his next five bouts. This set up a clash with Contender Series standout, Joe Pyfer, who floored “GM3” midway through the first.
His 33 professional finishes include 27 via submission.
On paper, this is all Petroski. We just watched Meerschaert get destroyed by a heavy-handed wrestler; that, combined with his history of slow starts, makes it hard to see him lasting past the first round. Even if he does somehow reclaim his former striking form, which was a nightmare of attrition, the eight combined takedowns he surrendered to Dustin Stoltzfus and Krzysztof Jotko give Petroski an obvious Plan B.
I get that you can never count out Meerschaert, but watch me. Indeed, Petroski blows him up with power punches inside of three minutes.
Prediction: Petroski via first round knockout
125 lbs.: Andrea Lee vs. Natalia Silva
Andrea Lee (13-7) extended her win streak to seven with three consecutive UFC victories out of the gate. She’s since lost five of seven, three of those via split decision, while dominating Antonina Shevchenko and Cynthia Calvillo along the way.
“KGB” will have two inches of height and 4.5 inches of reach on Natalia Silva (15-5-1).
Silva parlayed a six-fight win streak and the Jungle Fight Flyweight title into a UFC contract, only to spend 2.5 years on the sidelines. She’s made up for lost time by winning all three of her Octagon bouts and taking home a post-fight bonus for her spinning back kick knockout of Tereza Bleda.
She’s ended 12 bouts inside the distance, five of them via submission.
Even when taking care to avoid being blinded by the hype, I can’t see Lee winning this one. Though Lee is the strongest striker Silva has faced thus far in the Octagon, Silva’s speed and power make her unquestionably the more fearsome of the two on the feet. Plus, Lee has struggled to consistently out-wrestle her UFC opponents, and the way Silva shut down Tereza Bleda’s grappling suggests that that won’t change here.
I want to see Silva against a high-level, well-rounded fighter before fully committing to her hype train, but I trust her to outclass an opponent of Lee’s caliber. In the end, Silva out-strikes Lee to a wide decision victory.
Prediction: Silva via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Karine Silva vs. Maryna Moroz (11-4)
Karine Silva (16-4) lived up to her “Killer” nickname on Contender Series with a come-from-behind guillotine finish of Yan Qihui. She has been similarly effective in the Octagon, dispatching Poliana Botelho and Ketlen Souza in less than one round apiece.
Her 16 wins, split evenly between knockouts and submissions, have all come in less than two rounds.
Maryna Moroz (11-2) put a winless (0-2) skid behind her to win three straight, one of them over current Bantamweight contender, Mayra Bueno Silva. She then battled fellow veteran, Jennifer Maia, losing a wide unanimous decision in Nov. 2022.
She is the taller woman by two inches.
Though she’s proven unable to get over the hump at either 115 or 125 pounds, Moroz has a track record of derailing prospects. She’s got the skills to do so here because Silva is unproven past the first round and seemingly the lesser kickboxer. That said, Moroz’s inability to maintain distance against the shorter Maia should give Silva plenty of chances to tie up and power through “The Iron Lady’s” historically questionable takedown defense.
I’ll bite the bullet and pick Moroz — she’s never been finished and figures to snowball down the stretch. On top of that, she has functional takedowns of her own and Silva had tons of issues off her back against Yan. Either Silva taps her in the first few minutes or Moroz outlasts her to a narrow decision. I’m going with the latter.
Prediction: Moroz via split decision
Three more UFC 292 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including TUF Lightweight finals and the return of Chris Weidman. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 292 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN2/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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