The UFC’s nine events in nine weeks tour continues tonight, this time in Hidalgo, Texas. This is the mid-point of the stretch, with four events of the stretch having passed, and four more coming up before a few weeks of break.
Tonight, it’s an FS1 Fight Night headlined by a pair of top 10 Lightweights in Dustin Poirier and Michael Johnson. The rest of the main card is chock full of fun bouts, and and while seven of the 12 prelim fighters don’t even have a Wikipedia page, a lot of those fights have potential to be great too. Without further ado, here are my picks for tonight’s full card.
Fight Pass prelims (7/6c, UFC Fight Pass)
Alejandro Perez (17-6) vs. Alberto Morales (6-0)
For some reason, the first ever TUF: Latin America winner, one who’s 3-1 inside the octagon, is relegated to the Fight Pass opener. He’s finished 13 of his 17 career wins, eight via knockout and five via submission. He’s never had a losing streak, and while he has been submitted three times, the only time he got finished since 2011 was in his second UFC fight against Patrick Williams in June 2015.
Morales is an unbeaten prospect with five finishes, three of which are submissions. His last two fights were at WSOF and RFA, with the latter being a 20-second knockout win. The fact that he has submissions to his credit is the only reason why he has a shot here. A win for him would be surprising though, and I see Perez finishing him in the second. Prediction: Perez via tko, round 2.
Erick Montano (7-3) vs. Randy Brown (7-1)
For the first time tonight, there will be a USA vs. Mecico bout. Montano was a TUF: Latin America contestant, and won his UFC debut via split decision last November. His previous six wind had been finishes, with the last five coming in the first round. He’s got four submission and two knockout wins, but all three of his losses have come via submission.
Brown is a Long Islander who boxed as a teenager, and won his first six pro bouts via finish. He won his UFC debut against Matt Dwyer in January via decision, before getting submitted by Michael Graves in April. I want to pick Montaño, but I think Brown will win a decision. Prediction: Brown via decision.
TV prelims (8/7c, FS1)
Jose Alberto Quiñonez (4-2) vs. Joey Gomez (6-1)
USA vs. Mexico will be an underlying story in this Bantamweight tv prelim opener. Quiñonez was a competitor in the first TUF: Latin America competition back in 2014, lost in the Finale against Alejandro Perez at UFC 180 via unanimous decision, and won his follow-up bout against Leonardo Morales via first round submission last June. He’s won twice via knockout, once via submission and decision apiece, and has one knockout and decision loss apiece.
As for Gomez, “The KO King” has seen every fight end via knockout. His first six pro bouts were all first round knockout wins, with five of them coming within the first two minutes. The he took on Rob Font in his UFC debut in January on short notice, and got finished late in the second round. Quiñonez is not at Font’s level, and I see Gomez back to being his usual self. Prediction: Gomez via knockout, round 1.
Antonio Carlos Junior (5-2) vs. Leonardo Guimares (11-2, 1NC)
Middleweight take the stage next, as TUF: Brazil 3 Heavyweight winner Antonio Carlos Junior partakes in his third Middleweight fight. TUF contestants have a habit of dropping weight after the show, and ACJ is a prime example of just that. He’s 2-2 with a no contest inside the octagon, and a loss could put his UFC tenure on the line. Four of his wins have come via submission, and he’s only been finished once. That lone finish loss just so happened to be his last fight, a third round knockout loss at the hands of Daniel Kelly in March.
Guimares has finished nine of his 11 wins, six of which have come via submission. He lost his UFC debut against Anthony Smith via decision in February, and a loss won’t necessarily end his UFC tenure, but it will put it in jeopardy. Bottom line is both men need a win, and while Guimares has the experience edge, I think ACJ will find a way to prevail. Prediction: Carlos Junior via submission, round 2.
Augosto Montaño (15-2) vs. Belal Muhammad (9-1)
Belal Muhammad is no joke. Seven of his ten fights have gone the distance, including six of his last seven and his UFC debut in July. That said, his UFC debut against Alan Jouban was a blockbuster fight, and has resulted in his stock growing mightily. A win tonight could land him a ranked opponent within another fight.
Montaño is a finisher who’s finished all of his victories, ten via knockout, and five via submission, including 14 finishes in the first round. That said, both his losses have come via decision – first against Sam Alvey in 2011, and then Cathal Pendred in June 2015. Those to me just so happen to be the most credible opponents he’s ever faced, so while a first round finish is never out of the question, I’ll pick Belal via decision. Prediction: Muhammad via decision.
Gabriel Benitez (18-5) vs. Sam Sicilia (15-6)
Finishers close out the prelims, as Sam Sicilia takes on Gabriel Benitez. Sicilia is a kill or be killed type of fighter, going 8-2 in fights that end via knockout, 4-3 in one’s that end via submission, and 3-1 in bouts that go the distance. He was a contestant in the live season of the Ultimate Fighter back in 2012, and is 5-5 inside the octagon.
Benitez is a finisher, with nine submission and six knockout wins to his credit. He’s 2-1 inside the octagon, winning his debut at UFC 180 via third round submission, following up with a decision win over Clay Collard at UFC 188 last June, and losing his last fight back in November via first round knockout against veteran Andre Fili.
I’ll be homest, I don’t know what to expect here. Both fighters are finishers who have lost in emphatic fashion before. I’ll pick Sicilia, but I’m not very confident in my pick. Prediction: Sicilia via tko, round 2.
Main card (10/9c, FS1)
Chas Skelly (15-2) vs. Maximo Blanco (12-7-1, 1NC)
Originally rumored to be a Fight Pass bout, the first fight of the main card is a fun Featherweight tilt. Skelly is 4-2 inside the octagon, with both his losses coming via decision. Prior to losing his latest fight against Darren Elkins at UFC 196, Skelly had won four straight, and was on the verge of being ranked. He’s won eight fights via submission, four via decision and three via knockout.
As for Blanco, the man who had lost three of his first four UFC bouts followed up with three straight wins, before losing to short notice unbeaten fighter Luke Sanders in January. He’s 4-4 inside the octagon, and a loss will pit his UFC tenure back on the ropes. He has eight knockoutwins, and can never be counted out when he’s motivated. That said, I feel that Skelly is a better fighter, and will find a way to submit Blanco. Prediction: Skelly via submission, round 2.
Islam Makachev (12-1) vs. Chris Wade (11-2)
Wade is a decision machine, having gone the distance on nine of 13 occasions. He’s 7-2 in such contests, and has won four times via submission as well. The former Ring of Combat Lightweight champion had won his first four UFC bouts, before getting stifled in a decision loss to Rustam Khabilov in May.
Now, Wade has to face another Russian Sambo star in Islam Makachev. Makachev has won six times via submission, four times via decision and twice via knockout. His last three wins have come via submission, and his lone loss happened to come on his last fight-a quick first round knockout against Adriano Martins at UFC 192 last October. He was supposed to fight Drew Dober in April, but was flagged for Meldonium, before the investigation on him was cancelled in July. All the being said, I think he’ll win a crafty ground battle tonight, before locking in his seventh career submission win. Prediction: Makachev via submission, round 2.
Kenny Robertson (15-4) vs. Roan Carneiro (20-10)
The next fight is an enigma, and one that hasn’t gotten any attention at all. Robertson is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestling, and has finished 13 of his 15 career wins. He’s got seven knockout and six submission wins, with his only finish loss coming back in his UFC debut against Mike Pierce, at UFC 126 back in February 2011. He’s 4-4 inside the octagon, and while he hasn’t had a single year with multiple fights since fighting a whopping seven times in 2008, he’s still very dangerous.
Meanwhile, the 38-year-old Carneiro is a third degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and has won ten fights via decision, as well as eight via decision and two via knockout. He went 2-3 in his first UFC stint from early 2007 to late 2008, but a 7-1 record thereafter, including winning the Battlegrounds MMA Welterweight Grand Prix in October 2014, garnered him the opportunity to return to the octagon.
Carneiro won his return fight against Mark Munoz via first round submission in February 15, but got knocked out in his next bout against Derek Brunson this past February. A loss here won’t result in a release, but retirement talks may rise. I don’t know what to expect here, but I’ll pick Carneiro via decision since that feels like the safest option here, although a finish for either man is also likely. Prediction: Carneiro via decision.
(15) Evan Dunham (17-6) vs. Rick Glenn (18-3-1)
Every once in a while, a short notice bout winds up being more exciting than the originally scheduled bout. That could be the case here, as Evan Dunham will now face Rick Glenn instead of the injured Abel Trujillo. Dunham, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt who has six submission and three knockout wins, is 10-6 inside the octagon. That said, six of his last seven wins have come via decision, and his last finish win was in January 2012.
Rick Glenn might not be the biggest name, but he’s an even tougher challenge for Dunham than Trujillo would’ve been. The former WSOF champion shocked fans when he forced then champion Georgi Karakhanyan to retire after the second round of their June 2014 title fight, but asked for and was granted his release the following year. Since leaving WSOF, “The Gladiator” is 2-0. He’s got ten knockout and five submission wins, and is 15-1-1 in his last 17 fights.
The easy choice for many would be Dunham, based primarily on name recognition. That said, I have a feeling well get an upset tonight, and I think Glenn will be the one to pull it off. At least, I hope he does. Prediction: Glenn via tko, round 2.
(9) Derek Brunson (15-3) vs. (10) Uriah Hall (12-6)
The co-main event of the evening will either be a thrilling slugfest, or a boring chess match. Brunson has seven knockout and four submission wins, and is 6-1 inside the octagon with three straight first round knockout wins. That said, he’s also been a part of a few subpar decisions inside the octagon.
Hall is best known for undoubtedly the biggest knockout in Ultimate Fighter history, when he brutally spinning hook kicked Adam Cella in the third episode of Season 17. He excelled throughout the show, but lost his first two UFC bouts via controversial split decisions, looking gunshy in both bouts. He’s 5-2 since then, with four of those wins coming via knockout, and both losses coming via decision. He’s also got a hellacious flying knee knockout win over longtime contender Gegard Mousasi, and has eight knockouts to his credit.
I won’t be shocked if either man wins via knockout here. If it goes the distance though, Hall is 2-5 in such bouts. I see this fight going deep into the trenches, and just for fun, although I do like Hall, I’ll say Brunson wrestles him down for 10 minutes before finishing him in the third. Prediction: Brunson via tko, round 3.
(7) Dustin Poirier (20-4) vs. (10) Michael Johnson (16-10)
The main event of the evening is, in essence, an intriguing litmus test for Dustin Poirier. The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt has finished 16 of his opponents, ten of them via knockout, has an impressive 12-4 record inside the octagon, and has gone 4-0 since moving up to Lightweight. Three of his Lightweight contests have ended via first round knockout, with the only exception being a dominant decision win over Joseph Duffy at UFC 195. If Poirier wins tonight, he’s likely getting a top 5 opponent next, and will only be a few wins away from a potential title shot.
That said, Michael Johnson is no joke. The TUF 12 runner-up has an 8-6 record inside the octagon, has never been knocked out, and while he’s lost hid last two bouts via decision, he’d won four straight before that to garner a ranking. However, he has been submitted six times, and Poirier is very dangerous on the ground. This will be an interesting contest, but I think Poirier ends it in the second. A knockout would be shocking, but I’ll say “The Diamond” pulls it off via submission. Prediction: Poirier via submission, round 2.