After taking a break for the holidays, the UFC comes back with a vengeance by holding two events in four days from the fabled Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE. It starts with the rarest of MMA birds: the Wednesday afternoon UFC card, officially titled UFC on ESPN 20, and culminates this Saturday at UFC 256 with the return of The Notorious One, Conor McGregor taking on Dustin “The Diamond” Porier in a highly anticipated rematch.
However, let us not get ahead of ourselves because we have a monster 14 fight card that needs dissecting. It’s time to snap necks and cash checks.
LEAD CINCH LOCKS
Viviane Arujo – She’s taking on Roxanne Modaferri, who is that inexplicable paradox of having great submissions but lacking true, top shelf wrestling chops. Vive Arujo is 3-1 in the UFC with wins over Alexis Davis and Montana de la Rosa. I hate to say this because I love Roxy, but Arujo is too much for her at this point.
Ricky Simon – This kid is a whirlwind of offense. He exerts non-stop forward pressure that makes his opponents wilt. Simon is taking on UFC newcomer Gaetano Pirello, and I have seen nothing in his past bouts suggesting to me he has any business in the cage with Simon.
Tyson Nam – Here we have veteran striker Tyson Nam taking on grappling specialist Matt “Danger” Schnell at flyweight. Nam is a master at using distance strikes to keep his opponents at bay. Whether he uses hands, knees or feet, he will have something waiting on Schnell each and every time the thought “takedown” crosses his mind.
Umar Nurmagomedov – The undefeated bantamweight comes into this bout looking to keep his “O”. Sporting a 12-0 record and a famous last name, Nurmagomedov is a stereotypical Dagestani grinder with amazing takedowns and ground control. He’ll lock it up with 16-4 Sergey Morozov who is making his UFC debut. Morozov is well rounded, but doesn’t do any one thing good enough to keep Umar off him and away from a 13th “W”.
SOLID BUT UNSPECTACULAR WINS
Dalcha Lungbiambula – “Maluko” Perez will come out dressed as the Joker for weigh ins and try to rattle Lungbiambula, but none of that can change the fact that Perez has dropped 3 of 4 and but for his showmanship and marketability, would probably have a pink slip in his pocket. Expect Dalcha to grind this out.
Omari Ahkmedov – Ahkmedov takes on Tom Breese who while going undefeated for his first nine fights, has now alternated wins and losses in his last four UFC fights. Ahkmedov was riding a seven fight unbeaten streak before being outwrestled by former middleweight champ Chris Wiedman (no shame in that). Omari mauls Breese here and starts a new winning streak.
Niel Magny – Mike Chiesa is a tough out for anyone, but an examination of his record reveals what type of fighter gives him trouble: the quick, rangy striker with good takedown defense (ie, Anthony Pettis, Kevin Lee). That is exactly what Magny is, and if Chiesa does take him down, Magny has more than enough skill to avoid a submission and work himself back to his feet where he has the clear advantage.
UNDERDOGS AND CONTRARIAN UPSIDE
Jerome Rivera – Rivera is a 25 year old submission specialist who is one of the few people who earned a UFC contract on the Contenders Series without finishing his opponent. Still, the kid is as slick as snot on the mat, and takes on UFC newcomer Figuredo, who makes the move up from the Brazilian promotion Jungle Fight. I see Rivera chaining subs together until he gets the “W” or a decision.
Douglas Silva de Andrade – This fight is a coin flip despite de Andrade being a +195 underdog. His opponent, Lerone Murphy, is a pure striker from England who cuts angles and overwhelms opponents with precision volume striking, while de Andrade, while de Andrade is a shorter, more compact one and done KO artist who has slept 19 of his 26 pro wins. Given that neither guy is likely to look to take this fight to the mat, I’ll take a GPP shot on the more experienced and more powerful striker.