Happy Mother’s day everyone! On a day where sons and daughters everywhere will spend their mornings/afternoons being with or communicating with their mothers, the UFC is pulling on a pretty damn good card in Europe. Instead of having it take place on a clear Saturday, the UFC scheduled it for Mother’s day morning/afternoon, albeit it’s an evening card in Rotterdam, where it’s taking place.
Whatever the reasoning is, nobody knows. It should be a fun card, at least for those who can tune in. Regardless, here are my picks for today’s prelims.
Fight Pass prelims (10/9am CT, UFC Fight Pass)
Ulka Sasaki (18-3-1) Willie Gates (12-6)
If you’re willing to wake up early to watch MMA on this Mother’s day, the first fight of the day will be one worth watching. Both men are finishers, as Sasaki (nine submissions) has not gone the distance in his three UFC fights, while Gates has only gone the distance four times in 18 fights. Sasaki will be making his Flyweight debut on short notice after being finished in his last two Bantamweight fights, and Gates, who also possesses a 1-2 UFC record, will also need the victory. Honestly, Sasaki should probably be able to pull off a submission. For some reason, I have a hunch that Gates will manage to pull it off. Prediction: Gates via tko round 2.
Dominic Waters (9-4) vs. Leon Edwards (10-3)
Up next is a do or die fight for Dominic Waters. Waters tends to go the distance in his fights, and owns a 4-3 record in such fights. He’s been given a tough draw inside the octagon, having to face George Sullivan and Dong Hyun Kim, both on short notice. That’s why he’s 0-2 inside the octagon, fighting on the Fight Pass portion of an overseas Fight Night card on Mother’s Day, and on the verge of being cut with a loss.
His opponent, Leon Edwards, is 2-2 inside the octagon, has five knockout wins, and also has gone the distance five times. Filling in for Peter Sobotta on about two month’s notice, he’s 3-2 in fights that go all 15 minutes, including both his UFC losses. I think he may be the better fighter, but Waters is in much more dire need of a victory. I see Waters eking out a decision. Prediction: Waters via decision.
(5) Kyoji Horiguchi (16-2) vs. Neil Seery (16-11)
Lately, the UFC has made “Fight Pass headliner” a thing. It began with Poirier vs Duffy at UFC 195 to kick off the year, and since then, the final Fight Pass bout has been a notable bout. This time, the unique honor goes to an interesting Flyweight bout featuring a recent title challenger. That man is Horiguchi, a 25-year-old powerhouse with nine knockout victories, as well as a 5-1 UFC record. The second degree Karate black belt and A-Class Shootist’s only UFC loss came in a title bout against longtime champion Demetrious Johnson last April in the final second of a bout that many felt was rushed for the Japanese fighter. A win tonight may put him right near the top of the title contender list again.
Standing in his way is veteran Neil Seery. While the Irishman’s record may seem average, that’s in large part to his early career struggles, from nearly a decade ago. His UFC record is 3-2, and while his first four UFC fights went the distance, he does boast six knockout and submission wins apiece. While he does have a shot here, I believe this is Horiguchi’s fight to win. Seery will be game, but Horiguchi will come away with the win. Prediction: Horiguchi via 2nd round tko.
TV prelims (Noon/11 am CT, FS1)
Yan Cabral vs. Reza Madadi
Opening up the televised prelims is an intriguing Lightweight matchup between a pair of submission specialists. Madadi is a wrestler with eight submission wins. He’s 2-2 inside the octagon, with his activity being stalled for a few years due to jail time after a burglary conviction. Meanwhile, Cabral has won 11 of his 12 victories by way of submission, and also possesses a 2-2 UFC record. In the end, I see him being the better striker and grappler, and believe that he’ll wind up with the finish. Prediction: Cabral via submission, round 2.
Jon Tuck (9-2) vs. Josh Emmett (9-0)
The injury bug has not been kind to the UFC lately, causing many major fights, including various main events, to be cancelled or postponed over the past few months. Four bout changes went down in this card, including this bout. Initially, Tuck was supposed to take on Nick Hein. However, Hein had to pull out on Monday night, so Emmett got the call on just six days notice.
Simply put, Emmett is no joke. He’s undefeated with five finishes, and his last win came over former UFC fighter and RFA champion Christos Giagos. The fact that he’s part of a notable team in Team Alpha Male also bodes well for his UFC future. However, facing a guy like Tuck, a BJJ black belt with eight finishes in nine wins, is tough to do, especially on short notice. I see him putting forth a tough fight, and he might even get the win. But, I’ll go with Tuck in this one. Prediction: Tuck via decision or late tko.
Magnus Cedenblad (13-4) over Garreth McLellan (13-3)
The only non-Lightweight tv prelim bout is up next, as a pair of Middleweight finishers take the stage. Cedenblad is 3-1 inside the octagon, and should have gotten a push by now. The problem for him has been injuries. He made his UFC debut in April 2012, but didn’t fight again until August 2013. He returned to the cage 10 months later in May 2014, and this is his first fight since October of that year. He has 11 finishes to his credit, but for of his losses have come via submission.
Go figure, McLellan is a submission specialist. The South African prospect has nine submissions to his credit, and only two of his fights have gone the distance. That said, his UFC debut was a decision loss, and his UFC win against Bubba Bush ended with two seconds left in the fight. I think he can win this bout, and it should be a truly fascinating one. In the end, I’ll go with Cedenblad, but anything can happen. Prediction: Cedenblad via tko, round 2.
Rustam Khabilov (19-3) vs. Chris Wade (11-1)
Closing out the prelims will be the king of suplexes, Rustam Khabilov. It’s truly crazy how much his star has dimmed. Winning his UFC debut in December 2012 via suplexes and punches back in December 2012, the Sambo superstar garnered a lot of hype after following up with a pair of victories in 2013. His 3-0 UFC record earned him a main event nod against former Lightweight champion Benson Henderson. He was winning the fight through three rounds, applying solid pressure and performing well in the striking department. The fourth round did not go his way, however, as he succumbed to a choke just over a minute into it. He lost his following fight in February 2015 vs. Adriano Martins in a forgettable split decision, and won his last fight, a bout against Norman Parke, in an equally forgettable decision. He does have a 4-2 UFC record though, and a win may get him back into the title picture.
Standing in Khabilov’s way is Chris Wade. Originally expected to face another great Russian prospect in Rashid Magomedov, Wade accepted this fight on short notice. The wrestler is 4-0 inside the octagon, and has four wins via submission, to go along with his seven submission wins. He definitely has a shot at winning this fight. The issue for him is that he’s not as good a grappler or striker as Khabilov is. I see him having his moments, but Khabilov will likely come away with the winning nod. Prediction: Khabilov via dominant decision or late tko.