While the UFC’s first non-Brazilian South American card isn’t stacked in terms of notable names or big fights, it’s still a card worth watching. Each portion of the card consists of some fights that are sure to be fun, and those who choose to tune in will wind up getting treated to some very enjoyable action, including on the prelims. That doesn’t mean that every fight will deliver, but the prelims alone contain at least three fights that could wind up winning Fight of the Night. It’s a solid slate, and here are my picks for all seven prelim bouts set to take place tomorrow evening.
Fight Pass prelims (6:30/5:30c, UFC Fight Pass)
Felipe Silva (8-1) vs. Claudio Puelles (7-2)
It’s not often that a card’s opening bout is a legitimate Fight of the Night candidate, but that’s definitely the case with this one. Felipe Silva has had all but one of his pro bouts end in the first round, and almost half of them have ended within two minutes. He’s got six knockout wins and decent grappling to boot, with his lone loss coming against Mairbek Taisumov last September. Puelles is a fun fighter too, with six of his seven wins coming via finish. He’s much more of a grappler than Silva, but that doesn’t mean he can’t bring it on the feet. This one could go either way, but it really feels like it’s a fight designed for Silva to win another thrilling and fun bout. If Puelles can take him down, then he has a shot. However, I think this one will end with another Silva knockout that will get the fans in attendance warmed up for a potentially fun night. Prediction: Silva via tko, round 1.
Henry Briones (16-7-1) vs. Frankie Saenz (12-5)
Up next is a bout between two guys who desperately need a win. Both men are 1-3 in their last four fights, with Briones having lost three straight while Saenz ended a three-fight skid with a controversial win against Merab Dvalishvili that I really believe he lost. Saenz is decent on the feet and ground, but has a bad tendency of coasting. Briones is a finisher who has ended 14 of his 16 wins early, but hasn’t recorded one since November 2014. He’ll try to end this one early, while Saenz will try to take it into deep waters. I’d love to see Briones get a finish here, but my gut tells me that Saenz will grind his way to a decision win. It won’t win him any fans, but that’s what he needs to do to win. He’s the better fighter, has faced tougher competition and I see him eking out a win in this one. Prediction: Saenz via decision.
Enrique Barzola (14-3) vs. Brandon Davis (9-3)
The headlining Fight Pass bout is a sneaky good fight on paper. Barzola has become a decision machine since coming over to the UFC, but he’s 4-1 with three straight wins within the promotion. His lone loss since joining the company was a split decision against Kyle Bochniak that I thought he won, but that’s well in the past. He’d have a higher spot on the card if he wasn’t a decision machine of late, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a tough, well-rounded fighter with a bright future. Like Barzola, Davis too has become a decision-happy guy of late. All three of his UFC/Dana White Contender Series bouts have gone the distance. However, like Barzola, he’s a good fighter with solid skills who can put forth fun fights. I’ll pick Barzola to take this one, but don’t rule Davis out completely in this one. Prediction: Barzola via decision.
Televised prelims (8/7c, FS2)
Gabriel Benitez (20-6) vs. Humberto Bandenay (14-4, 1 NC)
Like the Fight Pass opener, the televised prelim curtain jerker should be an absolute blast to watch. Benitez has finished 16 of his 19 wins, including ten via submission, and is quietly 4-2 in the UFC with wins over Sam Sicilia and then-ranked Jason Knight on his resume. Bandenay is also a very fun fighter to watch, having only gone the distance in three of his 19 pro fights. He’s finished 11 of his 14 wins, has had nine fights end in the first round and won his UFC debut last August in just 26 seconds. This is a great fight between two finishers that’s guaranteed to deliver. I’m going with Benitez, but Bandenay should never be counted out. Don’t blink during this one folks. Prediction: Benitez via submission, round 2.
Siuri Kondo (6-0) vs. Poliana Botelho (6-1)
On a card that consists of three women’s bouts, this one might be the most intriguing. Kondo is a pro wrestler who also possesses a 13-1 kickboxing record and is unbeaten in MMA. She’s gone the distance in five of her six pro bouts, but is more well-rounded than her record suggests. Meanwhile, Botelho is a Muay Thai expert who has finished five of her six wins via knockout and has only lost to Vivianne Pereira. This is a sneaky good bout on paper, and I’m not sure who to pick. A part of me says Botenho will get a late finish, while the other side believes Kondo will get another decision. It’s a coin flip, and I guess I’ll pick Kondo? It’ll be an interesting fight no matter who wins this one. Prediction: Kondo via decision.
Brandon Moreno (14-4) vs. Alexandre Pantoja (18-3)
Up next is a battle between ranked Flyweights that also has a legitimate chance of being the Fight of the Night. Moreno hasn’t fought since a one-sided decision loss to Sergio Pettis last August, but still has a winning UFC record (3-1) and is still a must watch fighter in my eyes. He’s a great grappler who has ten submission wins and has never been finished. He always brings it and deserves the attention he gets. He should beat Pantoja, but it won’t be easy. Like Moreno, Pantoja’s coming off a loss that ended a lengthy winning streak. He’s more balanced, with six knockout wins as opposed to seven submissions, but his ground game is also terrific like Moreno’s is. The only people to defeat him since 2008 are Dustin Ortiz and Jussier Formiga, and he has never been finished in 21 pro fights. This one should be fun and lightning-paced. I’ll pick Moreno, but Pantoja will definitely test him. Prediction: Moreno via decision.
Michel Prazeres (24-2) vs. Zak Cummings (21-5)
In the headlining prelim bout of the evening, a pair of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts who possess sneaky good UFC records will battle to potentially enter the rankings with a victory. Prazeres is a second degree black belt who has never been finished in 26 pro bouts, has only lost to Kevin Lee and Paulo Thiago and would be much more intriguing to the masses if he didn’t have the reputation of being a blanket. He does have 10 submission wins, but the fact that fifteen of his other 16 fights have mostly been boring decisions is the reason why he isn’t pushed much, despite the fact that he has an 8-2 UFC record. He probably won’t be able to blanket Cummings though, especially since this is his Welterweight debut, which is why this is a fascinating fight.
Cummings has quietly been one of the most successful fighters from the famed 17th TUF season, amassing a 6-2 record in the UFC. Every fighter to ever defeat him was ranked in the UFC at one point or another, and he’s a solid gatekeeper for the division. He’s also been a stalwart in this division, while Prazeres is making his Welterweight debut. If Prazeres wins, he could wind up being ranked in his new division sooner rather than later. However, I think Cummings will take this one. Prazeres is better on the ground, but will he be able to take down a big Welterweight, in what will be his first fight in his weight class? There’s a chance, but if he can’t do that, then I see Cummings taking this one. Prediction: Cummings via decision.