MMA fans, the night is finally here! UFC 187 is finally upon us! Granted, the card did suffer a few hits, as longtime UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones was stripped of his title, and subsequently suspended due to his felony hit and run charges.
Also, Khabib Nurmagomedov, the Sambo superstar who has long been considered the king in waiting of the Lightweight division, suffered yet another knee injury, and had to be scrapped from his bout against Donald Cerrone.
Then, earlier today, TUF 20 runner up Rose Namajunas’ return to the octagon was delayed, as Nina Ansaroff had to bow out of the prelim card’s opening bout, due to a flu. Oh, and Ansaroff also weighed in five pounds over the limit, which is unacceptable.
But, the car is still loaded, from the bottom to the top! I’ll get to the main card in a little bit. First, here are my prelim card predictions. All these fights are good enough to be Fight Night or even PPV undercards, which serve as further proof of how stacked this card is.
Fight Pass Prelims (7/6c, UFC Fight Pass)
Justin Scoggins (9-2) vs. Josh Sampo (11-4)
Opening up the card is a solid Flyweight tilt between two fighters who got their UFC careers off with a bang, but have fallen on hard times of late. Scoggins debuted in December of 2013, where he finished Richie Vaculik within a round. He then followed up with a decision win over Will Campuzano last March, and was viewed by many as a potential contender down the road.
He has since then lost back to back fights, beginning with a controversial split decision loss against Dustin Ortiz, before succumbing to a rear-naked choke against former title “challenger” John Moraga. A loss may not necessarily end his UFC career, but he’s definitely on thin ice.
As for Sampo, prospects of maintaining a job within the UFC are not as bright if he loses tonight. He may have won his UFC debut via submission over Ryan Benoit, but that was back in November 2013, in a fight where he missed weight by nearly two pounds. He has since been decisioned by Zach Makovsky, and submitted in the first round by Patric Holohan. Granted, both of those fighters are pretty good. However, a loss will give him three straight, and his journey within the UFC will likely be over for the foreseeable future.
Both fighters have solid chins, and the ability to finish fights. If the fight does not go the distance, either Sampo will get a choke, or Scoggins will come away with the knockout. However, I see the fight going the distance, with South Carolinian “Tank” coming away with the victory. Prediction: Scoggins via unanimous decision.
Islam Makachev (11-0) vs. Leo Kuntz (17-1-1)
The last breakdown was a bit lengthy, so I’ll keep this one short. First of all, this is one of the best name matchups in MMA history. Islam vs. Kuntz? It’s pretty hard to top that.
In all seriousness, Makachev is the real deal. He is multiple Combat Sambo champion, earning him the title of International Master of Sport for it. He can win via knockout, submission or decision, and deserves better than a bout on Fight Pass.
Kuntz was a former TUF contestant, and is definitely worthy of being in the UFC. Then again, anyone with a record like his deserves to be in. However, I do not believe he can beet Makachev, who might be the next big thing in the UFC’s Lightweight division. I expect Kuntz to be tossed around throughout the canvas, in what should be a dominant decision victory for the Russian. Prediction: Makachev via unanimous decision.
Televised prelims (8/7c, FS1)
Mike Pyle vs. Colby Covington (7-0)
The next fight was supposed to be the headlining bout on Fight Pass, but got elevated to the FS1 opener, after Ansaroff had to pull out of her fight against Rose Namajunas. The fight is a short notice bout, as Covington stepped up for an injured Sean Spencer.
Honestly, I’d love to see Pyle walk away with a victory. He’s 39 years old, and has been around for nearly 16 years! He’s lost two of three, and is clearly in the twilight of his career. He’s win 16 fight via submission, but has lost two of his last three, both via early first round knockouts.
As for Covington, the guy is quite a prospect. He won both of his UFC fights via “submission,” with the first coming via strikes. I honestly beleive he’s going to win this fight. However, my heart still roots for Pyle, so I’ll begrudgingly pick in favor of the mullet. Head pick: Covington Heart pick: Pyle. Prediction: Pyle via decision.
Uriah Hall (10-4) vs. Rafael Natal (19-6-1)
Ugh. That’s probably the best way to describe any Natal fight where he does not get finished. Alas, maybe things will be differently this time. As was evidenced by yesterday’s weigh-ins, these two men despise each other. And, Hall is the man who became infamous on TUF 17 for his hellacious knockout finishes.
Has he finally got things figured out? Can he take the next step, after winning three straight fights, against a guy who can smother anybody, and is a high-level gatekeeper within the division? My heart says yes, but my head says no. Head pick: Natal Heart pick: Hall. Prediction: Natal via unanimous decision.
Dong Hyun Kim (19-3-1, 1NC) vs. Josh Burkman (27-10, 1NC)
Speaking of ugly fights, this one has the potential for going much the same way. Both Kim and Burkman have the ability to finish their opponents, but both Welterweights often find themselves in grinding fights. In this division, despite being a Breazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, as well as a fourth dan black belt in Judo, Kim is the king of such fights. Burkman is still a good fighter, but he’s not amongst the top fighter in the UFC’s Welterweight division. The fight against Hector Lombard in January made that clear, and this fight will make that all the more evident. Prediction: Kim via grinding decision.
(1) John Dodson (16-6) vs. (9) Zach Makovsky (19-5)
In the headlining prelim bout of the evening, fans will be treated to what will likely be the Flyweight title eliminator. John Dodson, the man who gave champion Demetrious Johnson the toughest test of his UFC career back in January of 2013, returns to the octagon nearly a full year after defeating John Moraga last June. He would have gotten a title shot by now, but injuries derailed him from getting the opportunity yet. A win tonight likely will get him the next shot.
The TUF 14 winner, who is 5-1 in the UFC, has knocked out four of his opponents inside the octagon, including current UFC Bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw. He has knocked out eight of his opponents, but all six of his career losses have come via decision.
Speaking of decision, that is the method of choice behind many of Makovsky’s victories. The former Bellator Bantamweight Champion has won 12 of his 19 career bouts in that manner. He is 3-1 inside the octagon, and has never been knocked out. However, if anyone in the Flyweight division can do it, it’s John Dodson. I see him prevailing late in the fight, in just that manner. Prediction: Dodson via tko, round 3.