UFC Fight Night 113: Nelson vs. Ponzinibbio main card preview and predictions

After what should be a mostly fun prelim card, the eight UFC main card in seven weeks will get underway from Scotland.

While the card isn’t huge in terms of name value, it has the makings to be one of the most entertaining cards of the year.

Both the main and co-main events will pit the eighth-ranked and 14th ranked fighters in their respective divisions, as rising former TUF: Brazil 2 contestant Santiago Ponzinibbio will take on Icelandic submission specialist Gunnar Nelson, and the young Cynthia Calvillo will take on former TUF 20 contestant and fan favorite Joanne Calderwood, in Calderwood’s home country.

Also on the main card, Paul Felder and Stevie Ray will partake in a Lightweight battle that will either be great or disappointing, and Jack Marshman will take on Ryan Janes in a striker vs. grappler battle. The striker vs. grappler matchup also fits the descriptor for Khalil Roundtree vs. Paul Craig, which will follow a Heavyweight tilt between UFC debutants Justin Willis and James Mulheron.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve been excited for this card for weeks, and it should be a very enjoyable viewing experience for all MMA fans who tune in. Now without further ado, here are my picks for all six main card bouts.

UFC Fight Night 113 main card (3/2c, FS1)

James Mulheron (11-1) vs. Justin Willis (4-1)

Heavyweight debutants open up the slate, as San Jose’s Justin Willis takes on England’s James Mulheron. This one isn’t easy to pick. Willis is from the more notable camp in AKA, but also only has five fights to his credit, and isn’t exactly in very good shape even by Heavyweight standards. He’s won his last four, but isn’t very active and I’m not on board his bandwagon as of yet. Honestly, it might be too soon to call him to the UFC just yet.

As for Mulheron, the 12-fight veteran has seven knockout and four decision wins. Of his 12 fights, only three ended in the opening round, which is quite strange for a Heavyweight. He’s only been a pro for four and a half years, but tends to be fairly active, and is entering the UFC with a four-fight winning streak.

I have no idea what to expect here. Both men are finishers, but tend to finish fights after the first round. Mulheron has the experience edge and is fighting closer to home, but Willis trains with the likes of Daniel Cormier, Cain Velasquez, Luke Rockhold and Khabib Nurmagomedov. I’ll pick Willis, but I’m not too sold on my pick at all. It’s Heavyweights after all. Prediction: Willis via tko, round 2. 

Khalil Roundtree (5-2) vs. Paul Craig (9-1)

The next fight pits the last two Tyson Pedro victims against each other. Craig is a submission specialist who’s fighting in his home country, has finished all nine of his wins, eight via submission, and seven finishes in the opening round. Roundtree is someone who I’ve gotten to see from the start of his career, since his first four fights were all for RFA. He then participated in TUF 23 last year, and is 1-2 in the UFC. Of his five wins, three of them not only ended via first round knockout, they also had a total fight length of 3:18! He’s also got two decision wins, and both his losses were in fights where he was taken to the ground and dominated. Well, Craig is a great submission grappler. Unless Roundtree connects early and turns out Craig’s lights, this is Craig’s fight to lose. Prediction: Craig via submission, round 2. 

Jack Marshman (21-6) vs. Ryan Janes (9-2)

Much like the Roundtree vs. Craig fight, this one is also grappler vs. knockout artist. Both men are1-1 in the UFC and  the winner avoids a losing streak, so this is a big fight for both men.

While Marshman does have five submission victories, he’s much more known for his 13 knockout wins. After all, his BAMMA title win, Cage Warriors title win and UFC debut victory were all wins via knockout or tko. Of his six losses, three have come against current or former UFC guys. He went 9-1 before losing his last fight against the now surging Thiago Santos, and needs the win to avoid a losing streak.

Janes is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt who’s won seven of his ten victories via submission. He’d won seven straight after losing his second career fight, and earned a UFC slot as a result. He defeated Keith Berish via decision in his UFC debut last December, but got submitted by Gerald Meerschaert in his latest fight in a battle of submission grapplers this past February.

Normally in striker vs. grappler battles, the grappler gets the edge and usually gets the win. In this case though, I can’t follow that formula. I think Marshman will do fine if this one goes to the ground, but even more than that, I think Marshman will get the tko on the feet. This one should be a dandy. Prediction: Marshman via tko, round 2. 

Stevie Ray (21-6) vs. Paul Felder (13-3)

The next bout pits normally exciting Lightweights in a fight that has the potential to be Fight of the Night, but may wind up being a disappointing dud. Felder is a second degree black belt in Taekwondo and also a black belt in Karate, and is known for some crazy finishes. He’s also known for some disappointing duds. While he’s 5-3 in the UFC and while he first caught the attention of the masses by garnering a spinning backfist knockout over Danny Castillo in January 2015, his UFC debut was actually a split decision over Jason Saggo.  His last fight was a thrilling first round knockout over Alessandro Ricci and gave him his third finish in the UFC, but he’s also had four fights go the distance since he came to the UFC. Either he’ll thrill, or he’ll disappoint as a result of failing to pull the trigger. This fight is one where either is possible.

Ray is a submission grappler with some power to boot, and has never had a losing streak. The former BAMMA and Cage Warriors champion is 5-1 in the UFC, and began his UFC career with a pair of finishes. Since then, all four of his fights have gone the distance. He does have 14 finishes to his credit, but also seven decision wins. He has been submitted four times, but the last time that happened was in 2013. This fight may end via finish, but I won’t be shocked if it goes the distance. It’s quite a doozie, and I hope it winds up being fun like it has potential to. Prediction: Ray via decision. 

(14) Cynthia Calvillo (5-0) vs. (8) Joanne Calderwood (11-2)

In the co-main event of the evening, fan favorite and soft spoken Joanne Calderwood will fight in her home country against the surging Cynthia Calvillo in what some may consider a striker vs. grappler bout, but it’s not that simple.

Calderwood has had quite an interesting career, going 19-2 as a Kickboxer before devoting herself fully to MMA. She went 8-0 before joining TUF 20, and got submitted by Rose Namajunas in the quarterfinals that season. Her UFC tenure has been murky, as she’s gone 3-2 in the UFC with all her wins coming by decision or late finish, while both losses came via first round submission. On top of that, she had troubles with her personal life that included needing to switch camps amongst other things, so it’s been a wild past few years for her.

As for Calvillo, while she has only a third as many pro fights under her belt than Calderwood, she’s actually older. She went 5-1 as an amateur, but didn’t make her pro debut until two and a half years after her amateur career ended in April 2014. Her pro debut took place in August of last year and a year later, she’s already got her sixth fight about to take place! She’s been crazy active, is already fighting for the fourth time this year, and this is her third UFC bout since joining the promotion earlier this year. The Team Alpha Male product has four finishes, and ground credentials, so there’s a reason why she’s been pushed so much so soon since coming to the UFC.

As for the fight itself, it’s tough to call. Calderwood has the striking edge, but Calvillo has the ground edge and is good standing up too. It’s hard to not root for Calderwood, but she did miss weight, and has been submitted twice in five UFC bouts. I’ll pick Calvillo, but it’s a tough pick to make. Prediction: Calvillo via submission, round 2. 

(8) Gunnar Nelson (16-2-1) vs. (14) Santiago Ponzinibbio (24-3)

In the main event of the evening, Santiago Ponzinibbio finally gets a chance to be in a big fight, against consistent top 10 welterweight and grappling wizard Gunnar Nelson. Ponzinibbio first hit the UFC scene on TUF:Brazil 2, in which he won all four of his house fights to earn a chance to fight in the finale. Sadly, he got hurt and didn’t get to fight in the finale. His UFC debut got delayed, and when he did make his promotional debut in November 2013, he god decisioned by Ryan LaFlare. He won his next two bouts against Wendell Oliveira and Sean Strickland, before losing a firefight against Lorenz Larkin in June 2015. Since then, he hasn’t tasted defeat, winning four straight bouts. In all, the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt has gone 6-2 in the UFC, and finally has a chance to headline a card. He’s won 13 fights via knockout and six by submission. He’s all action, and a pure joy to watch fight.

As for Nelson, the man is a grappling wizard through and through. The Icelandic submission specialist has submitted 12 opponents, and possesses black belts in both Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Goju-ryu Karate. He’s 7-2 in the UFC, and both his losses came via decision. Honestly, a part of me fears he’ll get knocked out tonight. However, I can’t let my gut dictate my thoughts here. Even though both men are Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts, Nelson is better, right? Right? Okay fine, I don’t know. Both are great on the ground, Ponzinibbio is better on the feet, and this is a much tougher fight to call than one would think.

My head says Nelson, my heart roots for both, and my gut says Ponzinibbio will shock the masses. What will happen? I genuinely can’t pick. Head pick: Nelson via submission, round 3. Gut pick: Ponzinibbio via tko, round 2.

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