Another week, another early UFC card. It seems to have become the norm lately, and has resulted in mixed reviews. Alas, it’s still the first thing I’ll be able to write about, since a major life event allowed me to get back to writing in a proficient manner (more about that later.)
The card itself is alright, for a foreign Fight Night card. The prelims have mediocrity written all over them. However, the main card is definitely worth a watch. In the headliner, fans will be treated to a dream fight of sorts. A bout that was about half a decade in the making, former UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar will take on longtime Bantamweight contender and former WEC Featherweight Champion Urijah Faber, in a bout between two of the greatest lower weight fighters in recent MMA history.
Also on the card will be an intriguing Middleweight bout between former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion Gegard Mousasi and Costa Philippou, a potential future Welterweight contender’s bout between the streaking Neil Magny and Hyun Gyu Lim, as well as the final fight of Mark Munoz’s career.
It all starts in a matter of a few hours, so anyone who appreciates MMA in the morning should have a field day with this one. I, however, am not a boring person. So, I might have to settle with DVRing it. If neither option works out, there’s always the full televised prelim and main card encore, beginning at 7/6p.m. on FS2. Regardless, it should be an intriguing card, worthy of at least a main card viewing.
Fight Pass Prelims (7/6a.m. CT, UFC Fight Pass)
Zhikui Yao (1-2) vs. Nolan Ticman (4-2)
Wow. Simply put, the first fight of the day is, well, not a UFC caliber fight. If anything, this fight belongs on the undercard of an AXS TV card, at best. Alas, whenever the UFC decides to put on a foreign card, the lowest fights are well, really low level.
The only reason Yao is even fighting here is because he gave Royston Wee a stiff test last August. He lost that fight via controversial split decision, earning him another shot inside the octagon. As for Ticman, the Kings MMA member also lost his UFC debut, a week before Yao’s loss. I’m not sold on him either, but at least he has a winning record. I guess I’ll go with him, if for no reason other than he has more experience. Prediction: Ticman via unanimous decision.
Jon Delos Reyes (7-4) vs. Roldan Sagncha-An (4-1)
While the day’s opening bout is somewhat of an eyesore on paper, this one screams fun. Both Filipino Flyweights are incredibly scrappy, and should put on quite a show. Reyes is a fighter who has only gotten out of the first round twice. However, he is 0-2 inside the octagon, with each loss coming via first round finish. He’ll be desperate for the win, and that could means he comes out guns blazin.
Sangcha An is also a finisher, winning his first four fights in that manner. However, he lost his UFC debut against Richie Vaculik last June. Both guys need the win, and anything can happen. However, Sangcha-An is actually from the Philippines, and I see him succeeding in a thoroughly enjoyable contest. Prediction: Sangcha-An via split decision.
Televised prelims (8/7a.m. CT, FS1)
Guangyou Ning (4-2-1) vs. Royston Wee (4-0)
Ah, Royston Wee. The perfect punchline for the current state of Asian MMA kicks off the televised portion of the card against Guangyu Ning. Ning was the Featherweight winner of TUF: China, while Wee is 2-0 inside the UFC. I don’t believe either fighter has much of a ceiling, but at least Wee is somewhat proven. He may have missed weight, but I’m still going to pick him, albeit begrudgingly. Prediction: Wee via split decision.
Li Jingliang (9-3) vs. Dhiego Lima (10-3)
Up next is a bout between two Welterweights who can finish their opponents, but have not been doing too well of late. Lima, the TUF: 19 runner up, has lost two of his three UFC bouts via first round knockout. Meanwhile, Jingliang has seen five of his last six fights go to a decision. Still, as disappointing as Lima has been with the promotion, I still believe he is better than what he has put forth inside the octagon. He can finish the fight, but this fight will likely go the distance, if it doesn’t end early. Prediction: Lima via unanimous decision.
Zhang Lipeng (9-8-1) vs. Kajan Johnson (19-11-1)
Up next is a fight that could have its moments, and may wind up being somewhat fun. That said, neither fighter has a high ceiling. Lipeng may be the TUF: China Welterweight winner, but his record is, well, appalling. Meanwhile, Johnosn is an MMA journeyman who has won seven of his last nine fights, and twelve of fifteen overall. He has submitted eleven opponents, but has been finished seven times. As a result, it’s hard to see this fight go the distance. I’m not sold on him, but I do not find Lipeng to be dependable at all. I’ll go with the Tristar product to put the Chinaman away late. Prediction: Johnson via submission, round 3.
Jon Tuck (8-2) vs. Tae Hyun Bang (17-8)
Closing out the prelims is a Lightweight bout that should please the audience. Tuck is a finisher, but has been decisioned in two of his last three fights, with both being losses. Bang also seems to be past his prime. He has lost four of his last seven, and almost always goes the distance, if he is unable to knock his opponent out. I want to pick Bang, if for no reason other than his name. However, Tuck only tends to lose against pressure fighters who are capable of taking down and grinding their opponents. Bang does not have that kind of style, so I will reluctantly pick him to lose a decision. Prediction: Tuck via unanimous decision.
Main card (10/9a.m. CT, FS1)
Levan Makashvili (6-1) VS. Mark Eddiva (6-1)
Opening up the main card is a solid bout between a pair of solid prospects. Eddiva tends to either choke his opponents out, or technically knock them out. However, he dropped his last fight, against Kevin Souza, nearly a year ago via tko. Makashvili may well be the second best fighter that Eddiva has ever faced, and I believe he is better than Eddiva in virtually everything. I see this being a good fight, with “The Hornet” coming away with a decision victory. Prediction: Makashvili via unanimous decision.
Yui Chul Nam (18-4-1) vs. Phillipe Nover (10-5-1)
Next up is the return of Phillipe Nover, as he takes on former Road FC Lightweight Champion Yui Chul Nam. Simply put, this is the turning point of the card, at which virtually every remaining bout is worth watching. Nam is a fighter who has won via knockout eight times, but has gone to a decision each of his last four times out there.
In the meantime, Nover has won three straight, and five of seven, since losing three straight inside the octagon. During that span, he went 2-1 with Bellator, and won the Ring of Combat Lightweight Championship. If he can take this to the ground, he may possibly secure a decision victory. If the fight stays standing, however, this fight is Nam’s to lose. I want to pick Nover, but I’ll go with the man who has won eight of his last nine. Prediction: Nam via unanimous decision.
Neil Magny (14-3) vs. Hyun Gyu Lim (13-4-1)
The next fight is also about stylistic matchups. In what could determine a future Welterweight contender, Neil Magny will aim to grapple his way to a win over the striker Lim. After losing his final two fights of 2013, the contestant from one of the worst TUF seasons in history looked to be out of the UFC for good with another loss. However, in 2014, Magny won all five of his bouts, and opened up his 2015 with a submission win on Valentine’s day.
As for Lim, the gigantic Welterweight is also on a hot streak, winning eight of his last nine bouts. Each of those wins was an early finish, while the lone loss was a short notice bout against former Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Tarek Saffiedine. He has won 10 times via knockout, and has pretty solid takedown defense. If he can avoid getting smothered by Magny, I believe he will finish this fight. I do not see Magny being too successful in this fight, as he gets his bell rung midway through it. Prediction: Lim via tko, round 2.
Mark Munoz (13-6) vs. Luke Barnatt (8-2)
Mark Munoz has had quite a decent MMA career. The former wrestler nearly challenged for the UFC’s Middleweight crown a few years back. Now, he has found himself having lost four of his last five bouts, including three straight, all via finish. In fact, the last three were all first round losses. Simply put, it’s hard to believe he has much of anything left.
That said, Barnatt’s lone losses have come in his last two fights, both being controversial split decisions. Still, I do believe he has a lot more left in the tank than Munoz. This fight could go any which way, but I’m going with Barnatt in a distance bout. Prediction: Barnatt via unanimous decision.
(7)Gegard Mousasi (35-5-2) vs. Costas Philippou (13-4, 1NC)
In the co-main event of the evening, a pair of Middleweights look to get back near contender status. Both are high-level strikers, and have the ability to finish each other.
That said, Mousasi is still a monster. He is active, tends to finish his fights, etc. He might not be a major title contender anymore, but I don’t see Philippou being victorious against any top ten Middleweight. Mousasi should be victorious, in what could be a relatively one-sided affair. Prediction: Mousasi via kto, round 2.
Frankie Edgar (18-4-1) vs. Urijah Faber (32-7)
Finally, this fight is happening! That was the reaction many longtime MMA fans had when the fight was first announced. That said, Edgar is bigger, better, more skilled, and has been a UFC champion before. I also believe he has the better chin of the two, and he should be the one fighting Jose Aldo on July 11, instead of Conor McGregor. He has the ability to finish this fight, but I see him winning a fun, albeit one-sided decision. Prediction: Edgar via unanimous decision.