Well MMA fans, it’s finally happening! Over a month later than expected, the rematch of the non-title, non-controversial, short notice bout between Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor will happen. While it’s not a necessary bout at all, it’s still happening, and we’ve got a PPV as a result of it.
The main card was originally stacked, but injuries, mixed with the shifting of a prominent bout to next week has made it a mixed bag. As for the prelims, while they’ve been relatively unscathed, they have been impacted altered to a degree. It’s still a slate that could be a lot fun though, and here are my picks for that portion of the card.
Fight Pass prelims (6:30/5:30c, UFC Fight Pass)
Alberto Uda (9-1) vs. Marvin Vettori (10-2)
Kicking off the card is a bout between two relative unknowns that can wind up stealing the show.
Uda came into the UFC undefeated, but lost his promotional debut against Jake Collier in late may via 2nd-round tko. He’s a finishing machine though, having won four fights apiece via knockout and submission. He also has a respectable gas tank, and the ability to finish fights in the third round. There’s no guarantee he’ll stick around in the UFC for long, especially if he loses this fight. But, at the very least, he is entertaining and capable of winning tonight.
As for Vettori, although he’s an unknown in these parts, he’s arguably one of the most notable MMA fighters from Italy, behind former UFC Middleweight and current Bellator fighter Alessio Sakara. There’ve been other notable MMA fighters with Italian lineage, but as far as purely Italian MMA fighters go, Vettori is right behind Sakara. Like Uda, he’s a finisher, although much more of a sub specialist, having prevailed seven times in that manner. he’s won five straight fights, including a bout in each of Venator FC’s three cards to date, and each of his finishes have come in the first round.
Both men are finishers, each one constantly brings the action, and that could result in an amazing fight. I don’t want to see Uda potentially get cut with a loss, but if the fight lives up to my expectations, he’ll be able to stick around even if he does lose. If this fight heads into the second or third rounds, the edge will go to Uda. But, I’ll have to go with Vettori, possibly early in the second round. Prediction: Vettori via submission, round 2.
Colby Covington (9-1) vs. Max Griffin (12-2)
Up next is a Welterweight bout that might not move the needle, but does have some interesting storylines to it. For one, Max Griffin was on the verge of retirement prior to getting the call by the UFC. The 30-year-old former Tachi Palace title challenger who’s been fighting since October 2009, was willing to hang his gloves up despite possessing a pretty good record. Well now, he enters the octagon with 12 wins in 14 tries, and six wins via knockout.
Griffin will be put to the flames right from the get go, as he faces a former two-time NCAA Division 1 All-American wrestler who possesses a 4-1 UFC record. Covington has won six of his nine career victories via submission, including three of his four UFC wins. It would be cool if Griffin could pull off the upset here, but I don’t see it happening. He has a puncher’s chance, but I see Covington taking him down, before ultimately submitting him. Prediction: Covington via submission, late round 1.
(7) Neil Magny (18-4) vs. Lorenz Larkin (17-5, 1NC)
Closing out the Fight Pass portion of the card that not only deserves a higher spot, but has also ticked people off because it doesn’t have a higher spot. It’s understandable, since Magny has won 10 of his last 11 UFC bouts, including an incredible 5-0 record in 2014, and 4-1 in 2015. His only loss since 2013 came against Demian Maia last August, and another win or two after this one should guarantee the ironman a title shot.
Larkin has finally hit his stride again, after an 0-3 start to 2014. He’s gone 3-1 since then, with the only loss coming via controversial decision at UFC 195 this past January. He won his next fight in that same manner, and a win tonight would put him near title contention as well. He’s got 10 knockout wins, while Magny has nine finishes combined. Both men have a propensity to go the distance, having gone the full 15 minutes on 21 different occasions. I see this one going all the way as well, but Magny will get the nod, in my opinion. Prediction: Magny via unanimous decision.
Televised prelims (8/7c, FS1)
(13) Randa Markos (6-3) vs. Cortney Casey (5-3)
There’s two women’s bouts on the card tonight, the first of which pits Iranian-Canadian Tristar product Randa Markos against quick finisher Cortney Casey. The recently red-haired Markos was a notable character in TUF 20, and has the better gas tank. Six of her fights have gone the distance, including all four of her UFC bouts. She’s 3-3 in fights that go the full way, 2-2 inside the octagon. She’s also alternated wins and losses inside the octagon, and having won her last bout, it’s arguable that she might be due for another loss.
Well, if Casey is to get the win tonight, it’ll likely be coming early. All five of her wins have been first round finishes, while all three of her loses have come in the third round. Her only loss via finish came in her second pro fight against underrated veteran Pearl Gonzalez in late 2013, with just 17 seconds to go in the bout. So, either Casey gets the early win, or Markos gets a late finish or a decision. Seeing how she’s part of one of the most notable gyms in MMA, I feel like Markos’ corner will have advised her to keep away from danger in the early going, hoping to tire out Casey in the process. I think that will work, and Markos will get a decision or late submission victory. Prediction: Markos via decision or 3rd round submission.
Artem Lobov (11-12-1, 1NC) vs. Chris Avila (5-2)
Why is this bout on the tv prelims, or in the UFC period? Well, you can thank tonight’s headliners for that! Avila is part of the Diaz crew, while Lobov likely would’ve been cut by now, had it not been for his ties with McGregor. Hell, the guy lost his TUF house fight, yet still got in because of McGregor! It’s quite a joke, I know.
Anyways, Avila is 5-2 with four finishes, and three straight wins via finish. Lobov has the most mediocre record of anyone in the UFC with at least 15 fights to their credit. He’s got four knockout and two submission wins, but 15 of his fights have gone the distance, an occasion on which he has a 5-9-1 record, with a no contest. He’s 0-2 inside the octagon, and shouldn’t be in the UFC. But, he’s here, and he’s facing a newcomer against whom he should win. I still won’t pick him though, if my heart has any say so. Heart pick: Avila via blitzing ko.
(8) Raquel Pennington (7-5) vs. Elizabeth Phillips (5-3)
The second of the women’s fights on the card pits a pair of female Bantamweights that have had mixed success throughout their careers. Pennington was a cast member of TUF 18, where she shockingly subbed veteran Tonya Evinger in the preliminary round, won a decision over Jessamyn Duke in the quarterfinals, but ultimately lost in the semis. Prior to that fight, she was best remembered for a gritty fight against Cat Zingano in Invicta, which she lost via late second round submission. She’s 4-2 inside the octagon though, with three of those fights, including both her losses, as well as her last win.
As for Phillips, she lost her pro debut against big time Kickboxer Miriam Nakamoto in 2012, before reeling off four straight wins to earn a spot in the UFC. Since entering the UFC, her career had taken a mercurial path. She lost her first two bouts with the promotion via split decision, acted like a sore loser as a result of one of them, and saved her UFC career by winning her last fight via decision. Even that fight had controversy – not because of the action between the two women but because Phillips had to deal with an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction during that July 2015 bout.
Neither woman is an easy pick in any fight, and I won’t be shocked if Phillips won. I also won’t be shocked if Phillips gets knocked out. But, I see this one going the distance, and I’ll go with Rocky. Prediction: Pennington via split decision.
(8) Cody Garbrandt (9-0) vs. (11)Takeya Mizugaki (21-9-2)
The headlining prelim reminds me of how I felt about the UFC 196 headliner, in an odd way. Garbrandt is the brash knockout artist who gets more and more annoying by the second, and everyone’s expecting him to win here. Remind you of a certain Irishman?
Anyways, Garbrandt is one of the top fighters left at Team Alpha Male, and has won eight of his nine career bouts via knockout. He’s 4-0 inside the octagon, and his last victory was an emphatic upset over previously 21-0 knockout artist Thomas Almeida in May. A win tonight virtually guarantees him a title shot, and all eyes will be on him tonight.
Meanwhile, Mizugaki is the exact opposite from Nate Diaz on so many levels. Whereas Nate can be really brash, Mizugaki is quiet. Diaz has a really tough exterior and talks hard, while Mizugaki has a Master’sdegree in electrical engineering. Diaz has a lot of finishes to his credit, while 15 of Mizugaki’s wins have come via decision. He’s also gotten two draws.
But, like Diaz, he’s been with the Zuffa family for years. Hee’s signed with the WEC in 2009, and made his UFC debut in early 2011. He’s 10-7 combined with the two promotions, and recently had a five-fight winning streak, but has lost 2 of his last three. Basically, he’s been around for a long time, has been overlooked a lot, and nobody is expecting him to beat the brash and talkative knockout artist. While my head says he’ll lose, my heart will root him on. Head pick: Garbrandt via knockout, round 1. Heart pick: Mizugaki via upset decision.