Finally, after nearly three weeks, a notable MMA event is taking place. What’s more is not only is it the biggest UFC card of the year so far and one of the most loaded ever, it’s taking place in my hometown! As a result, I get to be there!
I’ll post about the main card later, which has been relatively unscathed. The prelims, however, have been dealt a shakeup. Due to Sergio Pettis vs. Henry Cejudo being cancelled a few days ago, a notable prelim matchup between former double WSOF champion David Branch and Krzysztof Jyotko has been moved to the main card. Due to that, a Fight Pass prelim bout between Chase Sherman and hometown UFC newcomer Rashad Coulter, which was initially a bout between Jairjis Danho and Dmitry Poberezhets before both got injured, will now be on the televised portion on FX. Also earlier today, a prelim bout between UFC newcomers Jared Gordon and Michael Quinonez got scrapped when Gordon sustained a stomach illness, and Quinonez got his show money.
In the end, even though the initial 9-fight prelim slate will now be seven like most UFC cards, it’s still a loaded slate that’s must watch. Former Bellator and UFC Lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez will have his first fight since losing his title to Conor McGregor in the headlining prelim spot, when he faces the equally dangerous Dustin Poirier. Also on the prelims, submission specialists Chas Skelly and Jason Knight will square off, James Vick will face Marco Polo Reyes, one of the best female Strawweights ever in Jessica Aguilar will face the dangerous Cortney Casey, and more!
Initially, the Fight Pass portion of the card was a five-fight slate that was scheduled to begin at 5pm Central time. Due to a few injuries and shakeups on the prelim card, the Fight Pass slate will be the typical three-fight slate, scheduled to start as always, at 5:30pm Central. Also, the final four prelim fights will air on FX instead of the usual FS1, and here are my predictions for all seven prelim bouts.
Fight Pass Prelims (6:30, 5:30c, UFC Fight Pass)
Joachim Christensen (14-4) vs. Gadzhimurad Antigulov (19-4)
Opening up the slate? A great fight that honestly should be on the main card of a Fight Night, ideally the Stockholm card in two weeks. Christensen’s a Dane, Antigulov’s from Russia, and it would’ve been a great fight to showcase on the main card in two weeks. Not that I’m complaining of course, since I love that I’ll get to see this fight in person!
Christensen’s won five times apiece via knockout and submission, and has only been finished once, via armbar in his UFC debut last October. That submission loss came against a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt in Luis Henrique da Silva, and his follow-up third-round tko win over Bojan Mihajlovic reminded fans that he’s still got a lot left in the tank.
As for Antigulov, the Russian has won 13 straight, including 12 via finish and 11 in the first round. He’s finished 18 of his 19 wins, including 14 via submission. He’s also been knocked out and submitted twice apiece, but the last time that happened was back in early 2013. Christensen is tough, but I simply believe that Antigulov is better. Heck, Antigulov might be a future contender in this division with a win! I think he’ll win, and it might come via finish in the very first round of what should be a damn fun fight. Prediction: Antigulov via submission, round 1.
Gabriel Benitez (19-5) vs. Henrique Barzola (12-3-1)
While the next bout isn’t as big on paper, it’s still a very good one that’s worthy of being in a better slot than a Fight Pass prelim bout. Benitez, a Mexican fighter who will get loudly cheered in this one, is 3-1 inside the octagon, with two of those wins coming via finish. He’s on four of five overall, and has finished 16 of his 19 wins, including 10 via submission. He’s also won ten fights via first round finish, and while he’s been finished three times, that’s only happened once since 2013.
Barzola has four knockout, submission and decision wins apiece, and has never been finished. He’s 2-1 in the UFC, with all three of those fights going the distance. He has the tools to beat Benitez, and I won’t be shocked if he does take the win. A good part of me actually believe he will win. But the fight is in Texas, Benitez will have the fans by his side, and he’s got what it takes to end fights early. If Barzola wins via decision, nobody should be surprised. However, I can’t shake the feeling that Benitez will end this one in electrifying fashion. Prediction: Benitez via submission, round 2.
Jessica Aguilar (19-5) vs. Cortney Casey (6-4)
The headlining Fight Pass bout is an interesting battle between two clashing styles, including one of the greatest female MMA fighters of all time. That woman is none other than Jessica Aguilar. A championship level submission grappler, Aguilar has been fighting since 2006, having defeated the likes of former UFC and Invicta Strawweight champion Carla Esparza, as well as arguably the greatest female Strawweight ever, the one and only Megumi Fujii.
The former WSOF champion made her UFC debut in August 2015 against Claudia Gadelha, and lost a decision, which ended a ten-fight winning streak. She then tore her ACL early last year, and this is her first fight since then. Her only loss via finish came in her pro debut in 2006, and she’s won eight fights via submission. She’s also got a terrific gas tank, and against someone who’s a quick finisher in Casey, that could be the secret to her success.
Speaking of Casey, all six of her wins have come via first round finish. In contrast, all four of her losses came in the third round or via decision. If she can attack and pounce on Aguilar early on, she can win. If Aguilar can withstand the early fury though, this is her fight to win. Her ring rust may play a factor, but in the end, I see her coming away with the victory. Prediction: Aguilar via decision or late submission.
Televised prelims (8/7c, FX)
James Vick (10-1) vs. Marco Polo Reyes (7-3)
Due to baseball, the televised prelims, which usually air on FS1, will be taking place on FX instead. opening up the four-fight slate is a bout that’s sure to be fun, although it does feel a bit one-sided on paper.
James Vick was a TU semifinalist back in 2012, and began his career with a 9-0 mark, incliding five-straight UFC wins. Then he got brutally knocked out by Beneil Dariush last June, and after winning his follow-up fight via finish, he’s now slated to open up the televised portion of the card.
Reyes is understandably an underdog, but if nothing else, he’s entertaining. He’s only gone the distance once in ten fights, has won five of his seven bouts via knockout, and is surprisingly 3-0 in the UFC. Sadly for him, I think Vick will end that streak. He’s bigger, more skilled, and doesn’t fight as recklessly as Reyes occasionally has. Reyes will give Vick chances, and at some point, Vick will capitalize. As awesome as an upset would be, I just don’t see it happening. Prediction: Vick via submission, round 2.
Chase Sherman (9-3) vs. Rashad Coulter (8-1)
Up next is a Heavyweight bout that was originally a Fight Pass bout between Dmitry Poberezhets and Jairjis Danho, but is now a bout between Sherman and Coulter on FX.
Sherman has won all nine of his wins via first round knockout or tko, including seven within the opening two minutes. He’s lost both of his UFC bouts though, and a loss tomorrow night will likely end his UFC tenure.
Standing in Sherman’s way is UFC newcomer and Dallas’ own Rashad Coulter. Like Sherman, all of Coulter’s wins have come via knockout, including his last seven in the first round, with each of those seven coming in the first half of the opening round. His only loss came against Derek Perkins in the third round back in May 2013, and since then, he’s won five straight. Most of his fights were at Xtreme knockout, before he wound up fighting for Legacy, and his last bout was a quick 38-second knockout win over Larry Hopkins in the first ever LFA card, in Dallas, in January.
It’s a great fight on paper between two powerful heavyweights who are notable for quick first round finishes. Of course, this could result in a stalemate that could turn ugly. I don’t see that happening though, and I’ll take Coulter to take the first round win in what should be a great fight while it lasts. Prediction: Coulter via knockout, round 1.
Chas Skelly (17-2) vs. Jason High (16-2)
Next is a bout between two excellent submission specialists that are very even on paper. Both men have nearly the same record, exactly ten submission wins, and have only lost twice, each time via decision. Something’s gotta give. High has won three straight since losing his UFC debut against Tatsuya Kawajiri, while Skelly has won six of his last seven since losing his UFC debut as well. I’ll pick Skelly, but boy is it an even fight. No result will be surprising in this one. Prediction: Skelly via decision or second round submission.
(3) Eddie Alvarez (28-5) vs. (9) Dustin Poirier
It’s very rare that a former champion’s first fight since losing his title takes place on the prelims. For Eddie Alvarez though, that’s exactly what is happening. Six months ago, he was heading into a blockbuster fight, as the UFC Lightweight champion. Then he got thoroughly dominated by Conor McGregor, getting knocked out for the first time since 2007, and now, he’s headlining the prelims against a very dangerous opponent. While there’s no denying his abilities (22 finishes, 15 knockout wins, a who’s who of victims in all sorts of promotions, many championships, great overall game, lengthy winning streaks after every loss,) it’s fair to question what his mindset is going to be heading into this fight.
As for Poirier, “The Diamond” is 13-4 in the UFC, and 4-1 since going back to Lightweight. His only loss in that span was to Michael Johnson last September, and he followed up with a decision win over the always tough and gritty Jim Miller. If he wins this fight, he could find himself back in the title picture.
This is a huge fight. The winner gets back to the title picture, while the loser may stoop near gatekeeper status. The big question mark here is the mindset of Eddie Alvarez. Will he be plagued by losing his title the way he did, to whom he did? Or will he bounce back like he always used to after defeats? I’ll go with the latter, and pick Eddie to win a great fight. Prediction: Alvarez via decision or late tko.