Last week in MMA featured a pair of Bellator cards, a Legacy FC card, and a UFC card. This week, there’s a Bellator card, an RFA card, and unbeknownst to many, a pair of UFC cards. Everyone knows about the beleaguered UFC 206 card that’s taking place tomorrow night. However, nobody is talking about UFC Fight Night 1o2 from tonight, a card that’s been ravaged by injuries, and has had next to no buzz at all.
The prelims went from somewhat intriguing, to so lackluster on paper that even I’m not previewing them. The Yoder/Kish fight atop the prelims may be fun, but the relevancy is far from present, as is the case with the rest of the prelims, which even the hardest of hardcore fans are struggling to muster a single damn for. Well, aside from Mark Diakese’s fight, which is buried on the prelims, against a no-name opponent.
Hell, even the main card leaves a lot to ask for, with the only hope for even an ounce of excitement is if the two favorites in the main and co-main event bouts do indeed pull off highlight-reel knockouts. If they don’t it could be a boring and sour end to a card that’s peaked very little interest at all.
Even I, a person who tries to be as optimistic about any card on slate on a weekly basis, am severely down on this card! As a result, I hope everyone, including myself, winds up being wrong. Hopefully, this card winds up being a surprise, and becomes one that’s worth a watch by everyone. If it doesn’t go that way though, it’s hard to imagine anyone being surprised. Alas, here are my predictions for the main card at least which, fingers crossed, will be worth a watch.
UFC Fight Night 102 Main Card (9/8c, UFC Fight Pass)
Gian Villante (14-7) vs. Saparbek Safarov (8-0)
While the prelims are full of unknown fighters, surprisingly enough, the main card consists of seven fighters that are known by most UFC fans. The lone exception is Saparbek Safarov, and if his resume is to be trusted on the grand scale, he could wind up being a marvel before long. The Russian is unbeaten with six knockout and two submission wins, and began his career with seven first round finishes.
However, his first six bouts took place from November 2010 to December 2012, and his next fight wasn’t until September 2014. His latest fight took place a year and a half after that comeback fight, back in April of this year. In other words, this is Safarov’s first time of having two fights in a calendar year since 2012!
Meanwhile, New York native Gian Villante will be fighting in the second ever New York bout since the sport was allowed in the state again, after last month’s UFC 205. He’s 4-4 inside the octagon, with four fights ending via finish, three via decision, and one via technical majority decision. Twelve of his 21 career bouts have ended via knockout, including nine of his wins, and three if his UFC wins. He’s also gone the distance seven times, amassing a 3-4 record in such bouts. A lot of his bouts tend to escape the first round, and he’s got really good wrestling, so if he can take Safarov down and grind him out that way, nobody should be surprised. I’ll go for the upset though, in hopes of this main card kicking off with a shocking bang. Heart pick: Safarov via tko, round 1 (even if Villante likely wins via late round finish.
Corey Anders0n (8-2) vs. Sean O’Connell (17-8)
Anderson won one of the most forgettable TUF seasons ever with a great 61-second finish of Matt Van Buren in summer 2014, but five of his next six UFC bouts have gone the distance in lackluster bouts, with the lone exception being a third round knockout loss to Gian Villante in April 2015. He may be 5-2 inside the octagon, but with his last six bouts going deep into the third round and most of them being boring decisions, the former TUF winner has gotten next to no push whatsoever, despite having a unique nickname like “Beastin’ 25/8.”
Meanwhile, O’Connell is a mixed bag. Over half his fights have ended via knockout with him amassing a 9-4 record in such fights, five have ended via submission with him going 3-2 in such bouts, and he’s 5-2 in fights that go the distance. That said, he’s 2-4 inside the octagon, and despite his fun weigh-in antics, a loss here pretty much guarantees that he gets cut. I’d love to see him pull off the upset. My heart is rooting for him to win via hellacious, highlight-reel knockout. However, I’ll have to go with my gut, and pick Anderson to win an utterly forgettable fight. Prediction: Anderson via decision.
Francis Ngannou (8-1) vs. Anthony Hamilton (16-5)
In the co-main event of the evening, Heavyweight beast Francis Ngannou will not take on fellow beast Derrick Lewis, which is a fight that fans have been clamoring almost a year for. No, instead he faces Anthony Hamilton-a guy who’s got some highlight-reel finishes, but has also been in some subpar fights, to say the least.
Hamilton is 3-3 inside the octagon, has an 8-2 record in fights that end via knockout, and a 6-1 record in fights that go the distance. He’s had a few fights the past few years end via quick finish, including three inside the octagon, but also has had some dreadful bouts as well. Meanwhile, Ngannou has won seven straight, has finished all of his wins, and his lone loss was a decision loss in his second ever fight, back in December 2013. He’s 3-0 inside the octagon, and for the sake of the division amongst other things, I’ll pick him to win via brutal knockout like he usually does. Prediction: Ngannou via ko, round 2.
Derrick Lewis (16-4, 1NC) vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov (17-3)
In the main event of the evening, it’s Derrick Lewis up in this-sorry, I got a bit carried away for a second. Lewis is a knockout artist with 14 of his 16 career wins coming in that fashion, including all six of his UFC wins. He’s 6-2 inside the octagon, has four straight wins on his docket, and a win tonight could ensure him a high-powered bout soon.
Before a big-time bout though, the UFC wants to see if Lewis can pass the litmus test of Shamil Abdurakhimov. Abdurakhimov has never had a losing streak, has lost just once via knockout, submission and decision a piece, and has seven knockout, four submission and six decision wins apiece. He can be a grinder, as evidenced by both his UFC wins, and that can pose as trouble for Lewis. If Lewis passes the test though, it’ll be great for the UFC.
Sure, the UFC could’ve had Ngannou face Lewis in the main event, while pitting Abdurakhimov and Anthony Hamilton against each other lower in the card. However, the UFC’s dream scenario is that both Hamilton and Abdurakhimov lose tonight, Lewis and Ngannou win, and the two victors face each other in a heavily marketed fight soon. For the sake of the division, I hope that is, indeed what happens. Prediction: Lewis via tko, round 1.