The UFC is back in action, at the Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. Headlining the event is a pair of top fifteen Strawweight’s in Michelle Waterson and Angela Hill. This is an important fight for the division, as Waterson is looking to maintain her footing as a contender – while Angela Hill is trying to finally crack the division’s top ten. This should a fun and entertaining five round, so don’t miss it!

UFC Fight Night 177 Main Card on ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):

115 lbs: Michelle Waterson vs. Angela Hill – First off, let me acknowledge that Angela Hill will make history on Saturday night. She will become the first African-American woman to headline a UFC event. Kudos to Hill, who undoubtedly deserves the main event slot and this distinction. When Hill steps into the octagon, she will of fought for the ninth time in just about a two year span. Talk about a company’s dream.

As for the fight itself, I have Hill winning. While Waterson is a good striker, she offers very little in terms of volume and power. Hill on the other hand is not shy when it comes to striking, landing an excellent 5.76 significant strikes per minute. The beautiful thing about Hill too, is that she’s not a counter striker per say. Hill will engage first and put the pressure on you. Waterson is more of a counter striker and tries to maintain distance at all times. In a five round fight, I’d rather have the fighter going forward and throwing volume.

Another aspect of this fight that could play a role, is grappling. Waterson is the better grappler hands down, but Hill has vastly improved. In Hill’s earlier UFC fights, she could not stop a takedown. Fast forward to now and she’s stuffing Claudia Gadelha. So do I believe Waterson gets this fight to the ground? Maybe, but not more than once. In the end, I believe that Hill is the better fighter and is going to easily outpoint Waterson on the feet to a clean decision victory.

155 lbs: Ottman Azaitar vs. Khama Worthy – At first, I was on the Khama Worthy train for this fight. I mean, he stormed into the UFC with a massive upset victory over former training partner Devonte Smith. Then followed it up with a third-round submission victory over Luis Pena. Two big wins if you ask me.

Worthy is a solid striker, who definitely carries power – finishing nine of sixteen victories by knockout. The caution I have with Worthy, is that he’s got six professional losses – all by stoppage and five via knockout. I’ve yet to see Worthy truly in trouble in the UFC and that’s a credit to him for clearly sharpening his craft. However, Ottman Azaitar has legit power and showed that in his UFC debut against Teemu Packalen – as he absolutely slept the Finnish Lightweight for his ninth knockout victory. Make it ten, as I feel that the undefeated Azaitar is going exploit the issues that setback Worthy on the regional scene.

125 lbs: Andrea Lee vs. Roxanne Modafferi 2 – Back in 2014, a 2-0 rising star in Andrea Lee faced off against a veteran of 27 fights in Roxanne Modafferi. I understand at the time, Modafferi was 1-6 in her last seven fights. I also understand they saw this as an opportunity to build Lee’s name off Modafferi. However, Modafferi had vast experience, had fought the who’s who and had relocated herself into a better camp. In the end, Modafferi outgrappled Lee to split decision victory, halting Lee’s rise.

Fast forward to now, and both women are respectably 8th and 9th in the Flyweight rankings. Lee stormed into the UFC with three straight wins, but has since suffered two setbacks. Meanwhile Modafferi has traded wins and losses since returning the UFC in 2017. In other words, this is an important fight for the trajectory of both women.

As for my prediction, I’m going with Lee. Since their first fight, Lee has vastly improved her grappling and while her takedown defense isn’t anything special – she has been excellent in popping back up when taken down. Modaferri is an improved striker, but she is landing 3.04 significant strikes per minute – at a mere 30% clip. Her ability to get the fight to the mat and control opponents has been her main route to winning. While I can see Modaferri taking Lee down, I don’t see her controlling the action this time around. On the feet, Lee is the far better striker, offering volume and better accuracy. I see her exacting revenge nearly six years later – outpointing Modaferri to a decision victory.

205 lbs: Ed Herman vs. Mike Rodriguez – This is a tough fight to call, due to the revival of Ed Herman and the inconsistencies of Mike Rodriguez. At 39 years old, I for one didn’t see Ed Herman winning two fights in a row. In fact, you’d have to go back to a stretch between 2011-2012, to find the last time Herman won multiple fights in a row.

As for Mike Rodriguez, this will be his second fight in a three week span. He is coming off a devastating knockout victory over Marcin Prachnio – which was set up by a perfectly timed standing elbow. It was a much needed win for Rodriguez, as it was his second UFC victory in five fight. And his first since 2018.

As for a prediction, I have Rodriguez. Even with the inconsistencies he’s show in the UFC, I have a hard time seeing Herman matching him on the feet. And while Herman has been fairly durable, his last two fights have come against guys who have combined for two knockout victories in 16 UFC bouts. Prior to that, Herman lost four of his last five and was knockout out in two of those losses. So with that, give me Rodriguez to win via TKO.

155 lbs: Alan Patrick vs. Bobby Green – I’d be very surprised is Bobby Green doesn’t win this fight. Alan Patrick hasn’t fought in nearly two years and only twice in the last four years. His striking is rudimentary, consisting of only looping strikes. Patrick’s relies on his physical strength, mainly taking down his foes and controlling them. If he can’t, the little hope of tagging someone with a looping strike is all he’s got.

Green is a solid boxer and wrestler. As long ‘King’ can keep this fight upright or at the very least make Patrick work hard to take him down – then in the later rounds, Patrick will most assuredly be running on an empty gas tank. Green will then either knock Patrick out on the feet or batter him from inside the guard. In the end, this fight doesn’t see the scorecards, as I have Green winning via TKO.

145 lbs: Kyle Nelson vs. Billy Quarantillo – This should be an exciting fight, as Kyle Nelson likes to come out of the gate guns blazing. With sheer strength and a clinch game that involves thudding knees and elbows, Nelson looks to finish opponents early. Problem is, if Nelson can’t put his opponent out early, he’s shown the tendency to fade and get finished.

Another problem for Nelson is that Billy Quarantillo is extremely durable and hard to submit. If you recall in Quarantillo’s last fight against Spike Carlyle, he endured a first round of nightmares. Carlyle mauled Quarantillo with strikes and submission attempts, but could not finish him – which is partly due to Quarantillo’s patience, defense and scrambling abilities. In the end, Quarantillo weathered the stormed and pulled out a decision victory.

I see a similar fight to that being played out here – as Nelson looks strong early, but fades late. I however don’t see this going to scorecards. Nelson simply absorbs too many strikes – getting hit with 6.35 significant strikes per minute. On the other hand, Quarantillo is an accurate volume striker, landing 7.43 significant strikes per minute at an absurd 79% clip. Throw in excellent cardio and a hard pace – and I see Quarantillo finishing Nelson some point via submission.

UFC Fight Night 177 Prelims Card on ESPN+ (5 p.m. ET):

165 lbs (Catchweight): Brok Weaver vs. Jalin Turner – This fight was originally scheduled to see Brok Weaver take on Frank Camacho. Unfortunately, ‘The Crank’ was removed due to testing positive for COVID-19. In steps Jalin Turner, who’s bout last week against Thiago Moises was scrapped due to the Brazilian testing positive for COVID-19.

For Weaver, this is undoubtedly a tougher matchup. Camacho presented a brawling style, that left him susceptible to being clipped and knocked out. Turner however, is technical, manages distances well and has real knockout power. Standing 6’3, with a 77 inch reach, Turner holds a size advantage over basically every Lightweight.

Physically, Weaver is very strong and imposing. What he lacks, is any above average skill set. In Weaver’s UFC debut, Kazula Vargas took him down and controlled him before landing an illegal knee – resulting in a DQ. Weaver’s next fight against Roosevelt Roberts saw him get outstruck in the first round, then taken down and controlled- ultimately leading to a submission defeat.

As for a prediction, I have Turner. I foresee Weaver trying to neutralize Turner’s striking, by pressing him up against the cage. However, Turner will escape those situations, find the range and turn Weaver’s light out via knockout.

170 lbs: Bryan Barberena vs. Anthony Ivy – No disrespect to Anthony Ivy, but I do not like this fight for him. After lasting only 59 seconds in his UFC debut, a fight against a durable and experienced veteran in Bryan Barberena is not ideal.

From what I’ve seen on Ivy, he has little to no stand-up. He prefers to get the fight to mat, where he looks for submissions and to land ground-and-pound. Problem is, most of Ivy’s opponents where able to pop back up early on in the fight. Against Barberena, Ivy’s not only going to have issues controlling him early – but for three rounds. With everlasting cardio and the will to win, Barberena is hard to hold down and put away.

While Barberena isn’t the best striker, he brings forth excellent volume – landing 5.65 significant strikes per minute. Ultimately, a combination of that volume, cardio and the ability to pop back up – is Ivy’s undoing. So with that, I have Barberena winning via TKO.

155 lbs: Kevin Croom vs. Roosevelt Roberts – Originally, Matt Frevola was set to face Roosevelt Roberts. Unfortunately, Frevola was forced out due to an injury. In steps Kevin Croom, who was actually signed back in late August to fight Alex Caceres on short notice. For unknown reasons, Croom didn’t get that fight and was released. Two weeks later, Croom gets his chance.

While this fight does nothing in terms of advancement for Roberts, it does give him a more winnable fight. Croom is a natural Featherweight, with good grappling and decent striking. He will be at a strength disadvantage though, as well as every aspect but experience. In the end, Roberts gets back on track – winning via submission.

265 lbs: Alexander Romanov vs. Roque Martinez – This is a late addition to the card, but more so a short notice fight for Roque Martinez. If you recall, Alexander Romanov was set to make his debut last week. Unfortunately, that didn’t come to fruition, as his opponent Rogerio De Lima pulled out due to testing positive for COVID-19.

Now, ‘King Kong’ will finally grace the octagon and I heavily favor him in this fight. From the the little I’ve seen of Martinez, he seems to be mainly a volume striker, who has good cardio for a heavyweight. The problems I’ve seen though, are plenty. For one, Martinez seems to have power, but not one-punch knockout power. Against Jake Heun, who weighed at least 60 pounds less – Martinez struggled early on the feet and in trying to take Heun down. Another thing I’ve noticed in Martinez’s fights, is that he cuts easily. Against Heun, Martinez was cut open in the first round and against Mirko Cro Cop, he got stopped due to a cut – also in the first round.

As for a prediction, I have Romanov winning via TKO. While his striking isn’t up to par, his wrestling and overall ability to get the fight to mat is. In top control, Romanov throws down ferocious ground-and-pound and is a submission threat. Also, the fact that Romanov’s been training for a fight and Martinez is taking this on short notice – give’s me more confidence in siding with Romanov.

125 lbs: Justine Kish vs. Sabina Mazo – It’s nice to see Justine Kish back in the octagon for the second time this year, as she’s battled injuries throughout her UFC tenure. When healthy, Kish has shown flashes of volume striking and timely wrestling. While the oddsmakers see her as a moderate underdog, I’m not entirely convinced this fight isn’t closer than the line indicates. However, I do agree that Sabina Mazo wins.

Ever since losing her UFC debut, Mazo has reeled off two consecutive wins. In both victories, Mazo landed over 105 significant strikes – which is exemplified by the 6.44 significant strikes she lands per minute. Mazo can also wrestle, as she showed in her fight against Shana Dobson – landing on all four of her takedown attempts. The takedown defense sits at 88% too, but Mazo was only tested by Maryna Moroz in her debut. All and all, Mazo has the edge everywhere, but experience. That’s a tough aspect to deny, but give me Mazo to win this fight via a close decision.

135 lbs: Julia Avila vs. Sijara Eubanks – A week ago, both women were scheduled to fight different opponents. However, for various reasons, said opponents fell out – leaving Julia Avila and Sijara Eubanks to get paired up.

This is intriguing fight, and while the odds favor Avila – I’m going with the upset in Eubanks. I realize that Avila looks to be the real deal, as she dominated Pannie Kianzad in her UFC debut. Then almost a year later, she took out Gina Mazany in 22 seconds via knockout. Avila is a striker with heavy hands, who lands 3.9 significant strikes per minute – at a 42% accuracy. She has excellent athleticism to boot.

The reason however I’m siding with Eubanks, is that despite her record, she’s very well rounded. Not only does Eubanks land 4.95 significant strikes per minute, but she averages two takedowns per fight – at a 50% accuracy. She’s physically strong and has power in her hands. The problem which has plagued Eubanks though, is her suspect cardio. Against Avila, she’s going to need to have that shored up.

With victories over Lauren Murphy and Roxanne Modafferi, I think it’s silly to count out Eubanks. She’s extremely durable, having never been finished. She’s well rounded, with the ability to strike on the feet with Avila or attempt to get the fight to the mat with her wrestling. And while I do understand that the loss to Bethe Correia is a bad look – I’ll chalk it up to the Brazilian’s ability to make certain fights sloppy in her favor. So with that, give me Eubanks to win via decision.

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