UFC 214: Cormier vs. Jones prelim card preview and predictions.

UFC 214 day is finally here! Finally, Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier have their long-awaited rematch over two years in the making! Demian Maia will finally get a Welterweight title shot, fan favorite sluggers Donald Cerrone and Robbie Lawler will finally face off, Cristiane Cyborg will finally get a UFC title shot, and a top contender will be determined in the Light Heavyweight division!

As loaded as that historically great main card is, the prelims are spectacular too. Well, at least the televised prelims are. The Fight Pass slate has one notable bout, while the other two are must-wins for a few of the fighters on them. The televised prelims could easily pass as a Fight Night main card on their own, which goes to show how massive this titanic card really is.

Anyways, enough hyping up the card! Here are my picks for all seven of the prelims on deck for tonight. Hopefully the slate winds up being a great one in reality!

Fight Pass prelims (6:30/5:30pm CT, UFC Fight Pass)

Josh Burkman (28-15, 1 NC) vs. Drew Dober (17-8, 1 NC)

There’s not much to say about the night’s opening bout. Burkman went 9-2 after his initial UFC release, including a run as WSOF’s first ever Welterweight champion. Since coming to the UFC, he’s gone 1-5 with a no contest, with his lone win coming via decision over KJ Noons. How he hasn’t been cut yet is a shock to everyone. As uninspiring as Dober’s UFC run has been, his record isn’t nearly as bad. He’s 3-4 with a no contest in nearly four years with the promotion, but has only been finished three times in 26 fights, which is good for a fringe UFC fighter. I sort of want to pick Burkman, since I still like him more than I care for Dober, despite how atrocious Burmkan’s UFC stint has been. Truth be told, Burkman quite possibly will win, just because. That doesn’t mean I’ll pick him though. Prediction: Dober via decision. 

Eric Shelton (10-3) vs. Jarred Brooks (12-0)

The next bout is the only Fight Pass bout of the evening  that may wind up being relevant. Brooks is an unbeaten prospect with seven of his 12 wins coming via finish, while Shelton is a former TUF veteran who had some shocking upsets during the “Tournament of Champions” last fall, before losing in the semifinals to eventual tournament winner Tim Elliott. He then faced Alexandre Pantoja, the tournament’s top seed, in the TUF Finale. He lost a split decision, but could be a threat in the UFC if he wins here. It should be a fascinating bout between two guys who each have five submission and a pair of knockout wins. It’s quite a tossup, and no result will be a shock. I’ll pick Brooks, but by the narrowest of margins, in what could be a great fight that has massive ramifications down the road. Prediction: Brooks via split decision. 

Kailin Curran (4-4) vs. Aleksandre Albu (2-0)

The headlining Fight Pass bout, just, no words. Curran is 1-4 in the UFC with three of those losses coming via finish, while Albu got signed as a 1-0 fighter two years ago, and hasn’t fought since her UFC debut in April 2015, against a woman who’s since been cut. This is not a UFC caliber bout. I like both women, and Curran seems like a nice girl. She’s got more experience, and won’t be potentially rusty like Albu may be. She should’ve been cut by now though, so as resilient as she may be, and as much as I think she’ll win, I’m picking Albu. Who knows? Maybe Albu is a hidden gem who goes on a run if she picks up the win? Anything can happen, I guess. Prediction: Albu via decision. 

Televised prelims (8/7c, FXX)

Andre Fili (16-4) vs. Calvin Kattar (16-2)

For the first time ever, a UFC prelim card will air on FXX, a station known for Simpsons marathons. Breaking ground for the UFC on that station will be a Featherweight battle between Andre Fili and Calvin Kattar. Initially, Fili was supposed to take on Doo Ho Choi. However, Choi got hurt, and Kattar will make his UFC debut in place of him. Kattar is tough and gritty, and used to be a finisher, ending nine of his first ten victories within the time limit. However since the start of 2011, Kattar has seen all six of his fights go the distance. He’s won eight straight overall, and has only been finished once, back in 2008. He could be here to stay for a while, especially if he gets a win tonight.

Defeating Fili is a tough task though. Granted, the Team Alpha Male product is 4-3 in the UFC and has alternated wins and losses after beginning his career 13-1 prior to coming to the UFC, and all four of his losses have come via finish. He still has 11 wins via finish, and is a solid gatekeeper for one of the UFC’s most talent-rich divisions.

While Fili is the popular pick to win here for a bevy of reasons, I do believe Kattar will be a tough out for him. He’s resilient, on a winning streak, gritty, and deserves to be in the UFC. I still think Fili will win, but it could be close for most if not all of the fight. Prediction: Fili via decision or late tko. 

(8)Brian Ortega (11-0, 1 NC) vs. (9)Renato Moicano (11-0)

Up next is a bout between a pair of ranked, unbeaten Featherweight prospects who both have three UFC wins apiece. Ortega returns to the UFC for the first time since UFC 199 last June, entering the night with a 3-0 record inside the UFC, along with a no contest. The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt has seven finishes to his credit, and looks to have a bright future with the company if he stays away from trouble.

While Ortega was an RFA champion before coming to the UFC, Moicano entered the promotion as the Jungle Fight Featherweight champion. He won his UFC debut against Tom Niinimaki via submission in late 2014, and didn’t return until May of last year, when he defeated Zubaira Tukhugov via split decision. That win earned him a fight against the always dangerous Jeremy Stephens, whom he also defeated via split decision. He now finds himself facing another unbeaten former regional champion like himself, who has the same amount of total wins, UFC wins, submission wins, and more hype than himself.

It’s a very even fight, but here’s how I see it. As fun as Ortega is, he has a habit of getting finishes in fights where he’s actually losing. If he doesn’t finish Moicano, a man who has an unbeaten record and has never been finished, he likely loses a decision here. It’s the smart pick, really. It’s the kind of pick I’d normally make. Conventional wisdom points to it, and I can definitely see it going that way. However, I can’t shake the feeling T-City win here. Not sure why, it’s just a gut feeling. Oh well, I picked Weidman on a gut pick last week, so why not do the same here? Prediction: Ortega via decision or late submission. 

(13-FW) Renan Barao (34-4, 1 NC) vs. (8-BW) Aljamain Sterling (13-2)

Up next, the UFC’s eighth ranked Bantamweight will take on the UFC’s 13th ranked Featherweight in a 140 lb. catchweight bout. That’s because the California State Athletic Commission won’t allow Barao to fight at Bantamweight here, and a catchweight has been issued instead.

At one point, Barao had won a whopping 32 straight bouts going into the first TJ Dillashaw fight in May 2014. He got shockingly dominated in that fight, an is 2-2 since. He won his last bout via decision against Phillipe Nover, and a win tonight would give the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt two straight wins for the first time in over three years.

As for Sterling, the former NCAA Division III wrestler had won his first 12 bouts, before losing a pair of split decisions against Bryan Caraway and Raphael Assuncao, two highly ranked Bantamweights. He then defeated Augusto Mendes via decision this April, earning him a bout with the man who was the UFC’s bantamweight king from 2012 to May 2014. Sterling has good wrestling, a solid submission game and decent gas tank to boot. He’s 5-2 in the UFC, which is also very good. And yet, something seems missing. It’s felt that way for a long time now, both in his wins and his losses. As a result, it’s really hard to trust him. It’s not easy to trust Barao either, but I’m more confident in him winning than I am in Sterling defeating him. I’ll go with Barao to either take the decision, or get a late finish. Prediction: Barao via decision or late finish. 

(3) Ricardo Lamas (17-5) vs. (15) Jason Knight (20-2)

The headlining prelim could easily headline any Fight Night card, and would be a solid staple to any PPV main card too. Alas, Ricardo Lamas will take on Jason Knight on a short notice fight, when he was supposed to face Chan Sung Jung in a bout that was initially expected to headline a Fight Night before Jung sustained an injury.

Lamas is a former collegiate wrestler and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt who has been a perennial contender in both WEC and the UFC for over eight years, going 4-2 in the WEC before winning his first four UFC bouts en route to a title shot against Jose Aldo in February 2014. He lost a decision that night, and is 4-2 since. Overall, he’s 8-3 in the UFC, with his losses coming to Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes and Max Holloway. Two of those men entered last month as champions, while Mendes is arguably the best fighter in the division to never be Featherweight champion aside from Frankie Edgar.

Basically, Lamas has only lost to the best of the best in the division, scraping away and mowing down everyone else he’s faced since coming to the UFC. He’s got nine finishes to his credit and a well-rounded skill set, along with a terrific gas tank to boot. In other words, he’s by far and away the biggest test of Jason Knight’s career.

Speaking of Knight, 13 of the 25-year-old’s 20 wins have come via submission. He lost his UFC debut via decision to Tatsuya Kawajiri, but is 4-0 since, with his last three fights all ending via finish, and each of them garnering him performance bonuses. He’s got good striking and great grappling, with a very high ceiling. There’s no doubt that he can be at Lamas’ level down the road. The question is, is this fight too much too soon for him? His last win, a tko over the always tough Chas Skelly, was his biggest to date. Lamas is basically the highest level of gatekeeper in the UFC, if one can even refer to him as such.

Can Knight topple him? I think he can. I just don’t think it will happen tonight. Knight is great with an abundance of potential to boot, but I think this is a bit much for him. I hope he does well tonight, and I think he will. In the end though, I think Lamas will prove to be a bit too good for Knight to beat at this stage of his career. Prediction: Lamas via decision or late submission. 

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