The UFC returns after a two-week absence, with perhaps the most loaded Fight Night card ever. For the first time, a title fight will take place on FS1, as former Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz will take on current champion TJ Dillashaw, to cap off a loaded main card.
But first, let’s address the prelims. There are five Fight Pass fights, capped off by a great fight. THere will also be four fights on the FS1 prelims. While the main card has stayed surprising;y intact, the prelims have been decimated by injuries and visa problems. Still, it’s a solid nine-fight prelim slate. Here are my picks for tonight’s prelim card.
Francimar Barroso (17-4) vs. Elvis Mutapcic (15-3)
The first fight, honestly, might be boring as hell. Barroso has eight knockouts to his credit, but in his three UFC fights, he’s been an insomniac’s dream come true. Meanwhile, Mutapcic is a finisher, but he’s a Middleweight fighitng a Light Heavyweight on short notice. He should be in the UFC, but this is not a fight I see him winning. Expect a boring fight. Prediction: Barroso via boring decision.
Rob Font (11-1) vs. Joey Gomez (6-0)
This fight was supposed to be between Font and Patrick Williams. Sadly, Williams had to pull out of the fight due to an injury a few weeks back, and Gomez stepped up to the plate.
Font is a fun fighter who won his lone UFC fight via knockout over George Roop, but that fight was back in July 2014. He’s been hurt various times, and that’s why he may be rusty here.
Meanwhile, Gomez is a knockout artist who has never escaped the opening round. That said, he’s never faced anyone that’s close toUFC caliber. He can get the knockout, but I see him losing a fun fight via decision. Prediction: Font via decision.
Charles Rosa (10-2) vs. Kyle Bochniak (6-0)
This is yet another fight featuring a short notice participant. Charles Rosa was originally expected to face submission specialist Jimmy Hettes, but Hettes had to bow out last week, and Kyle Bochniak will fight just nine days after his last bout.
Rosa is a submission specialist, and has finished all of his victories, but has lost both of his decision bouts. He is 1-2 inside the octagon, and a loss here could send him back to the regional circuit.
Speaking of the regional circuit, Bochniak has fought every fight for CES, a promotion based in the northeastern United States. He has two knockout, submission and decision wins to his credit. Honestly, I think he can win here. However, I’m expecting the favorite to win a decision, yet again. Prediction: Rosa via decision.
Sean O’Connell (17-6) vs. Ilir Latifi (10-4, 1NC)
The next fight is must-watch. Both men are entertainers with finishing ability. O’Connell has nine knockouts to his credit, and has two straight UFC wins under his belt, all while being the most entertaining fighter at every weigh-in he attends.
Meanwhile, Latifi is also a finisher, and is 3-2 inside the octagon, with the last four fights ending in the opening round.
Honestly, both men can win this. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends early. I want to pick O’Connell, but I’m picking the Sledgehammer. Prediction: Latifi via tko, round 2.
Paul Felder (10-2) vs. Daron Cruickshank (16-7, 1NC)
The Fight Pass headliner is a must-watch fight that could wind up being a Fight of the Year candidate. Both men are known for spinning attacks, and can end a fight in a moment’s notice. They’re also struggling, and while they won’t necessarily get released with a loss, they will be on the hot seat.
Cruickshank was once a rising star. However, he has gone 1-3 with a no contest in his last five, and the luster behind his rise has certainly worn off.
Meanwhile, Felder is a 2nd degree black belt in Taekwondo and a black belt in Karate, with seven knockouts to his credit. Last January, he unleashed a spinning backfist upon Danny Castillo, and became a star overnight. He has since lost two straight, both via decision, and desperately needs a win.
Honestly, Felder should win this. He’s got more skills, and should pull through. However, I cannot bear seeing “The Detroit Superstar” losing another fight, so I’ll pick him here. Prediction: Cruickshank via decision.
Televised prelims (8/7c, FS1)
Maximo Blanco (12-6-1, 1NC) vs. Luke Sanders (10-0)
The first televised fight of the evening is another bout featuring a short notice combatant. This time, it’s Luke Sanders. Stepping in for Dennis Bermudez, Sanders is an RFA veteran who has six knockouts to his credit. Meanwhile, Blanco is a fighter who was once a prime prospect who began his UFC tenure with a 1-3 start. All but out, he’s gone 3-0 since, and a win here would put him back on the spotlight.
That said, I like Sanders. The RFA veteran is a potential threat to the rest of the division, and I believe he can stick around for a while. I see him winning a decision here, and garnering some moemntum inside the octagon. Prediction: Sanders via decision.
Chris Wade (10-1) Mehdi Baghdad (11-3)
Another fight, another short notice participant. This time, Mehdi Baghdad takes the place of Russian Sambo star, and one of my favorite fighters, Mairbek Taisumov. Taisumov would’ve killed Chris Wade, so this is for the best.
That said, Baghdad is a legit prospect. Prior to a failed stint on the latest season of TUF, Baghdad was the RFA Lightweight champion. All of his finishes have come via finish: eight knockouts and three submissions. He is well-rounded, and a potential regional star for the UFC.
That said, Chris Wade is no joke. He’s a decision machine, sure, but he’s gone 3-0 inside the octagon, and his lone loss has come against WSOF prospect Ozzy Dugulubgov. I see him being a mainstay for the UFC for a bit. However, like Blanco, I see him losing to a short notice opponent. Prediction: Baghdad via tko, round 2.
Ed Herman vs. Tim Boetch
Ever card, there’s a fight like this, where fans are ambivalent. Both these men are veterans. They both have been in some great fights. Still, it’s hard to get excited about either one. I’d love for this to be a great fight. HOwever, I don’t see it happening. Prediction: Doesn’t matter.
Patrick Cote (22-9) vs. Ben Saunders (19-6-2)
Yeah, I can’t be objective here. I’m a Ben Saunders fan through and through. Cote is a black belt in Judo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muai Thai. He’s 9-2 since being cut from the UFC in October 2010, and 5-2 since returning to the octagon. He should win here.
That said, WAR KILLA B! I can never pick against Ben Saunders, who always brings it. He’s got 15 wins via finish, with one of the nastiest guards in MMA. He’s 11-3 since getting cut from the UFC back in August 2010, with two of the losses coming in Bellator Tournament Finals against former champion Douglas Lima, and is 3-0 inside the octagon since returning to the UFC Cote should win, but my heart roots for Killa B. Head pick: Cote via decision. Heart pick: Saunders via gogoplata, round 1.