Welcome everybody, to week six of the UFC’S nine events in nine weeks run. The journey so far has been interesting, starting with the unforgettable UFC 202 last month, and including some very odd cards along the way, including UFC 203 two weeks back, which might be the weirdest card in UFC history to date.
This week, the journey continues in Brazil. There, Christiane “Cyborg,” undoubtedly the most feared female fighter ever, will take on UFC newcomer Lina Lansberg. I get that an unknown newcomer headlining isn’t a good look, but the UFC needs to cut corners for Cyborg, so it is what it is. The rest of the main card is intriguing as well, when though the top three fights feel like forgone conclusions upon first glance, but it’s the prelims that are being extremely overlooked.
Tonight’s prelims, to say the least, are legit. They pass the skeptical Wikipedia test (11 of the 14 prelim fighters have a legitimate page, and only one of them from the final six prelim bouts doesn’t,) and on paper, they feel like fun fights. It’s a slate chock full of notable UFC veterans, which is a shock considering it’s a Fight Night card. Hopefully, they all deliver tonight.
Fight Pass prelims (6:30/5:30c, UFC Fight Pass)
Gregor Gillespie (7-0) vs. Glaico Franca (13-4)
The opening bout features two fighters that most people may not know of, but it should be a fun fight. Gillespie was one of the best prospects in the regional scene prior to his call up, and won his first six fights via first round finish. He’s got a bright future, and deserves more eyeballs than he’s getting right now.
Franca is no joke though. The Tuf: Brazil 4 Lightweight winner is 2-0 inside the octagon, has finished 12 of his 13 wins, with six knockout and submission wins apiece, and of his four losses, three were decisions. Bottom line is that this is a finisher vs. finisher battle. I won’t be shocked with either man winning, and while my head says Gillespie should win, I think Franca will find a way to prevail. Prediction: Franca via tko, round 3.
Vicente Luque (9-5-1) vs. Hector Urbina (17-9-1)
Welterweights take the stage next, as the Blackzilians’ Luque takes on American Top Team’s Hector Urbina. The two are from rival camps, so emotions may run high here. Luque doesn’t have a pretty record, but eight of his nine wins have been finishes five of them via submission, including both his UFC wins. Urbina is a kill or be killed type fighter, with 21 of his 27 fights ending early, including seven of his losses. He’s 6-6-1 in his last 13 fights, and a complete wild card. A loss tonight won’t necessarily result in a release, and he has the ability to knock Luque out, but I see the Brazilian prevailing over him tonight. Prediction: Luque via submission, round 2.
Stevie Ray (19-5) vs. Alan Patrick (13-1)
The headlining Fight Pass bout is a Lightweight dandy. Ray has gone 3-0 inside the octagon since getting called up as the Cage Warriors Lightweight champion, and has finished 14 of his 19 wins – six via knockout and eight via submission. He also has five decision wins, and while he has been submitted four times, the last time that happened was three years ago.
Patrick has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but only has two submission wins, with seven of then coming via decision. His only loss came last June against the powerhouse that is Mairbek Taisumov, and I feel like Ray is getting too little respect here, so I’ll pick him to pull off the upset. Prediction: Ray via tko, round 2.
Televised prelims (8/7c, FS1)
Erick Silva (18-7, 1NC) vs. Luan Chagas (14-1-1)
The first televised fight of the evening has the potential to be spectacular. Silva was once viewed as a future superstar,and through his first three UFC bouts, he looked like just that. Then he fought Jon Fitch in a great fight at UFC 153 in October 2012, got stifled, and is 4-4 inside the octagon since then. He’s lost two straight, is 32 years old, and his days of being a blue chip prospect are long gone. If he loses tonight, despite being a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo and finishing 15 of his 18 career wins, he could wind up getting released.
Silva’s opponent, Luan Chagas, is a finisher. He’s only gone the distance once, and that was his UFC debut that ended via split draw against Sergio Moraes at UFC 198 in May, and has ten first round finishes. He could and maybe should win this. I want him to succeed inside the octagon. That said, seeing a once star prospect in Silva lose three straight and getting cut would be hard to watch, so my heart is making me pick Silva. Heart pick: Silva via submission, round 2.
Jussier Formiga (18-4) vs. Dustin Ortiz (15-5)
The next bout is a high-level Flyweight matchup that would be a great fit for any main card, whether it’s a Fight Night, FOX or PPV card. Formiga has been pretty good throughout his career, possesses black belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo. While his 4-3 UFC record isn’t great by any means, the fact of the matter is that all three of those losses were Flyweight title eliminators.
As for Ortiz, the Roufusport product is also 4-3 inside the octagon, with five of those fights going the distance. He’s got six knockouts and four submissions to his credit, but all five of his losses have come via decision. So, he’s gone the distance in half of his bouts, and he’s facing a guy who’s widely considered to be better than him and has ten decision wins. An Ortiz win would be an interesting surprise, but I don’t see it happening. Prediction: Formiga via decision or late submission.
Rani Yahya (22-8, 1NC) vs. Michinori Tanaka (11-1)
In a battle between two grapplers, it’s best to pick the better grappler. Yahya is as a second degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, 17 wins due to submission, and also a black belt in Muai Thai. He does have eight losses, but five of them have come via decision, and the last time he got finished was in 2009 against Joseph Benavidez. He’s 3-0 with a no contest since returning to Bantamweight, and it’s time for him to be taken seriously.
Tanaka has a great record, a second degree black belt in Judo, and five decision wins. He’s 6-1 in fights that go the distance, and 2-1 inside the octagon with all three fights going the distance. The said, Yahya is the best fighter he’s ever faced, and even if he doesn’t get submitted, I still see him losing. Prediction: Yahya via decision or late submission.
Gilbert Burns (13-1) vs. Michel Prazeres (20-2)
Two Lightweight Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts that have blanketing styles? The prelim headliner could be a snoozefest, or a somewhat funny striking battle. Prazeres has a second degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, has eight submission wins, 11 decision wins, and both his losses were decisions. He’s 4-2 inside the octagon, and his last seven fights went the distance, with most of them being snoozefests.
Burns also has a second degree black belt, has won eight fights via submission, has three knockout wins, and is 1-1 in fights that go the distance. He’s 4-1 inside the octagon , with three of those wins coming via armbar, and his only loss came against Rashid Magomedov. Well, Prazeres is not as good as Magomedov, and while he could try and blanket Burns, he could very likely get caught and finished in the process. I see this being a boring fight for the most part, before Burns locks in a submission out of nowhere. Prediction: Burns via submission, round 3.