UFC Fight Night 72: Bisping vs. Leites full card preview and predictions.

MMA and the UFC’s exhaustive week of action finally comes to a close tonight. But first, right before Titan FC makes its Fight Pass debut with a stacked card to completely end the week, the UFC is putting forth a late morning, early afternoon Fight Pass worthy card on FS1. You’ll see what I mean when you see the bout order below. Here are my picks for that glorified Fight Pass card, which really should be on Fight Pass.

Fight Pass prelims (10/9 a.m. CT, UFC Fight Pass)

Daniel Omielanchuk (16-5-1, 1NC) vs. Chris de la Rocha (3-1)

The first fight of the day involves Heavyweights. Unfortunately, both men are relatively unknown to the masses, and for good reason. Since winning nine bouts in 2012, the first eight of them via finish, Omielanchuk has only fought three times. He won his UFC debut over Nandor Guelmino at UFC 165 back in September 2013, but has been decisioned in two incredibly boring fights since, against Jared Roshold and Anthony Hamilton. A loss tonight ends his UFC tenure for sure.

Had Guelmino had to face Konstantin Erokhin in this fight, I believe he would’ve gotten smoked. However, now that he’s facing Chris de la Rocha, a guy who’s only got four career fights and is making his UFC debut on short notice, I have to go with the foreigner on this one. Prediction: Omielanchuk via tko, round 1.

Marcus Brimage (7-4) vs. Jimmie Rivera (16-1)

The other Fight Pass preliminary bout is another fight where a desperate fighter takes on a UFC debutant. The “veteran” is Brimage, a TUF 14 contestant who has lost three of his last four fights. Meanwhile, the debutant is Rivera, who also participated in the season. He wound up losing his entrance fight to the show’s eventual runner-up Dennis Bermudez.

He’s fought five times for Bellator and WSOF, winning each bout. He’s also the reigning CFFC champion, and has won 15 straight fights. Granted, he’s a bit of a decision machine, prevailing 11 times in that fashion. But, he has finished each of his last two opponents, and I still see him winning this fight. Prediction: Rivera via unanimous decision.

Televised Prelims (Noon/10 a.m. CT, FS1)

Robert Whiteford (11-2) vs. Paul Redmond (10-5)

Scotland vs. Ireland will be the case to open up the televised prelim set of the card. Whiteford, the Scotsman, is 1-1 inside the octagon. Meanwhile, the Irish Redmond is a finisher, prevailing in nine of his ten victories before the final bell. His record is far from great, but he s 7-2 in his last nine bouts. That said, I believe Whiteford is simply the better fighter, and will win what should be a fairly entertaining fight. Prediction: Whiteford via unanimous decision. 

Mickael Lebout (13-4-1, 1NC) vs. Teemu Packalen (7-0)

The next fight could create a European star for the UFC. That man is Teemu Packalen, an unbeaten prospect who has finished every opponent, five of them via submission, mostly in the opening round. His opponent, Lebout, is a veteran who saw his six-fight winning streak come to a halt in his UFC debut against Sergio Moraes back in April’s dreadful Poland card. This fight will have its moments, whether it goes a long time or not. I see Packalen winning the fight, pulling off a stunning submission midway through the fight. It may be wishful thinking, but it is what it is. Prediction: Packalen via submission, round 2.

Ilir Latifi (9-4) vs. Hans Stringer (22-6-3)

A pair of Light Heavyweights aim to get back on track in the next bout. Latifi, an Albanian/Swedish submission wrestler, has gone 2-2 in his UFC tenure, book-ending his wins with losses. Meanwhile, Stringer is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt with more knockouts (nine) than submissions (eight.) He may have the better record, but he’s not nearly as fun as his record shows, and is a wrestler moreso than not. Plus, seeing how Latifi is a submission wrestler, I see the Albanian coming away with a finish. Prediction: Latifi via submission, round 2.

Patrick Holohan (11-1-1) vs. Vaughan Lee (14-10-1)

Up next is yet another Irishman who’s primarily in the UFC because of Conor McGregor. Sure, he’s got eight submission victories, and he’s 2-1 inside the octagon, but it’s hard to be sold on him as of now. And while Lee’s record is far from stellar, he’s decent. He’s 4-4 inside the octagon over his nearly four years with the promotion, and he’s alternated wins with losses. Holohan can win, but since Lee lost his last bout, I’m going to have to go with the latter, simply for the sake of consistency. Prediction: Lee via split decision.

Main card (1/noon CT, FS1)

Leonardo Mafra (12-2) vs. Steven Ray (17-5)

The first fight of the main card should be an entertaining one. Mafra is a knockout artist, while Ray is a submission specialist, with each man possessing eight victories via their most notable crafts. Mafra is 1-1 inside the octagon, while Ray won his debut over Marcin Bandel in April. While Ray has lost almost every fight he’s had against legit fighters, they’ve all come via submission. Mafra is not a submission guy, so this fight could last a while. In the end, I see this being a tossup fight, but I’m going to pick the submission specialist here. Prediction: Ray via submission, late round 2.

Leon Edwards (9-2) vs. Pawel Pawlak (11-1)

The next fight will likely be one-sided. Edwards’ UFC tenure is evident of how this fight will go. Either he will get a quick finish, like he did in his last fight against Set Baczynski, or he’ll lose a boring decision. Pawlak was once a feared fighter, but he’s been nothing short of a massive letdown of late, partaking in boring decisions each of his first two fights inside the octagon. Of course, if I pick against him, he could pull off a surprising victory. Alas, I’m going to go with the Jamaican here. Prediction: Edwards via tko, round 2.

Joanne Calderwood (9-1) vs. Cortney Casey (4-1)

The day’s sole female bout takes the stage next, as fan favorite Joanne Calderwood takes on a short notice opponent in her home country. Not long ago, she was quite a hyped fighter. However, she got dominated by previously unknown Maryna Moroz back in April, the hype surrounding her has died down quite a bit. All of a sudden, folks are focusing on her shortcomings moreso than ever before. Granted, Casey possesses some threat, and can win this fight. Plus, yesterday’s weigh-ins were concerning to say the least. Still, I’ll have to go with the favorite here. Prediction: Calderwood via point-fighting decision.

Joseph Duffy (13-1) vs. Ivan Jorge (26-4)

The “McGregor Killer” is up next, as he looks to build on his quick tko victory over Jake Lindsey at UFC 185 against Ivan George. Duffy has had quite a career, starting off with ten-straight first round finishes. However, after falling late in the fourth round of his Lightweight title fight against Ivan Musardo in October 2011, his only career loss, the Japanese Jiu Jitsu and Taekwondo black belt had to sit for over a year to recover from an injury. He then switched to boxing for eight months in 2013, going 7-0 during that stretch. Then, he returned to MMA, and has gone 3-0 since returning.

Meanwhile, Jorge is one of the most underrated fighters in the UFC. He’s 26-4, possesses black belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Luta Livre Esportiva (a combination of catch wrestling and Judo,) has gone 2-1 inside the octagon, was the former Jungle Fight Lightweight champion, has 13 submission wins, and 13 first round finishes. That said, his “fight” against Josh Shockley in February was horrendous, and Duffy should end this one quickly. Prediction: Duffy via tko, early round 2.

Ross Pearson (17-8, 1NC) vs. Evan Dunham (15-6)

The co-main event perfectly personifies what this card really is: a glorified Fight Pass card. Evan Dunham hasn’t been relevant in years, Pearson is still inconsistent, and this co-main would’ve made sense about four years ago.

Simply put, the UFC loves Evan Dunham. I don’t know why, they just do. That’s why, despite the fact that he’d lost four of five fights, the UFC opted not to release him, and instead gifted him a fight against Rodrigo Damm. He won, and now gets this fight.

Meanwhile, Ross Pearson simply can’t seem to get it together. The TUF 9 winner may be 9-5 with a no contest inside the octagon, but he’s been extremely inconsistent of late. After kicking off his UFC career with a 4-1 record, he began to alternate wins with losses. He won back to back fights via tko in late 2012 and early 2013 overseas, but has gone 2-2 with a no contest since. Still, he should win this fight. I won’t be too surprised to see Dunham pull it off, but conventional wisdom points squarely towards The Brit, whom I will pick. Prediction: Pearson via tko, late round 2.

(9) Michael Bisping (26-7) vs. (10) Thales Leites (25-4)

In the main event of this glorified Fight Pass card (sorry, last time I’ll mention it,) longtime UFC staple Michael Bisping will return to the UK for the first time in nearly five years. He’s gone 16-7 inside the octagon, and while he’s had some tough breaks of late, going 4-4 since the start of 2012, he’s still a solid fighter.

That said, Thales Leites has been one of the least talked about comeback stories in MMA. He began his career with a 9-0 mark, and followed up his UFC debut loss against Martin Kampmann with five straight victories. Then, he fought Anderson Silva for the Middleweight title, in what turned out to be an incredibly underwhelming fight. He then lost a split decision to Alessio Sakara, and was unceremoniously let go by the promotion.

Following his release, Leites began to get things back in order. He won three straight fights, before losing a tough fight against Matt Horwich for the PWP Middleweight Championship in August 2010. He then won three straight, including a decision win over former UFC Light Heavyweight title challenger Jeremy Horn, and got his return ticket to the UFC with after avenging his loss to Horwich in March 2012 via submission.

Since returning to the UFC, Leites has been on a roll. He decisioned Tom Watson and Ed Herman at UFC 163 and 167, and followed up with a pair of knockout victories over Trevor Smith and Francis Carmont. Then, in his last fight back in January, the Brailian Jiu Jitsu black belt reeled off his 14th career submission victory over Tim Boetch at UFC 183.

This fight could go one of many ways. While Bisping has 15 knockout wins and Leites has 14 submission wins, Leites can knock Bisping out. Also, the ground game vastly favors the Brazilian. On top of that, Bisping has alternated wins and losses since the start of 2012, and is coming off a decision win over CB Dolloway less than three months ago. He can win this fight, and is the favorite, but I’m going with the upset here. Head pick: Probably Bisping via hometown discount decision. Gut Pick: Leites via submission, round 4.


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