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|Early Preliminary Card (ESPN+ / UFC Fight Pass)|
|W 125 lbs.||Jennifer Maia vs. Jessica Eye|
I hate to say this because I like Jessica Eye, but her time in the sun at Flyweight seems to be nearing an end. That’s not because she isn’t talented, but her defensive wrestling and fight IQ are so inconsistent, that it’s hard to trust her. Against wrestlers or grapplers, Eye has struggled to keep the fight on the feet. Unfortunately for her, Maia is an excellent grappler.
The Brazilian is 3-3 inside the octagon, fighting the absolute best the division has to offer. With wins over Alexis Davis, Roxanne Modafferi and a submission over Joanne Calderwood, Maia is one of the best Flyweights on the roster. Most recently, Maia fought Valentina Shevchenko for the Flyweight Championship. While Maia ultimately lost, she did however go the full five rounds with the Champion. Even taking down and controlling Shevchenko for a decisive round in her favor.
As for the prediction, I have Maia winning via decision. I could see a scenario where she submits Eye, but ‘Evil’ is as tough as they come and will avoid being finished. What she won’t avoid is being taken down and controlled for three rounds. So with that, give me Maia to win via decision.
|185 lbs.||Amari Akhmedov vs. Brad Tavares|
This is a toss-up. In one corner, you have an under the radar Amari Akhmedov. I say that because it’s doubtful you’d know the Russian has nine UFC wins under his belt. In fact, over Akhmedov’s last eight fights, he is an impressive 6-1-1. Most recently, ‘Wolverine’ submitted Tom Breese.
In the other corner, you have Brad Taveras. A Hawaiin who has been with the UFC for over a decade. Tavares, a former Ultimate Fighter contestant, has 19 fights inside the octagon. One of the crazier things about Tavares is that he fought and beat Phil Baroni in the UFC. Recently, Taveres ended a two-fight skid and near three year winless streak against Antonio Carlos Junior.
As for a prediction, I’m going with Akhmedov. I don’t like his gas tank, but I do like that he wrestles and will push opponents up to the cage for control time. Tavares has solid takedown defense, so it’s very possible that he shrugs off the Russian, tiring him in the process. On the feet, both men are low output and are rather inaccurate. They both are defensively sound though, which could make this fight a real stalemate. Given all the intangibles, one takedown or control time against the cage could be the difference here – which is why I have Akhmedov winning via decision.
|125 lbs.||Zhalgas Zhumagulov vs. Jerome Rivera|
For a promotion that is cutting bait on fighters, it’s surprising to see the UFC give Jerome Rivera a fourth chance to get a win inside the octagon. Then again, he has stepped up on short notice on numerous occasions. In fact, his three UFC fights have taken place in three different weight classes; Flyweight, Bantamweight and Featherweight. Above his natural weight class of Flyweight, Rivera has been stopped twice.
Zhalgas Zhumagulov was touted entering the UFC, but he too has yet to win inside the octagon. With wins over Tyson Nam, Tagir Ulanbekov and Ali Bagautinov on the regional scene, expectations were high for the Kazakh. His debut didn’t go his way, even though me and the majority of media members saw Zhumagulov as the victor. The most recent fight against Amir Albazi, he definitely didn’t win though.
As for a prediction, I have Zhumagulov finally getting his UFC win. The Kazakh does a nice job blending his striking with his wrestling. The overall output is decent, but in this particular fight, I see only wrestling needed to aid him to victory. Rivera has awful takedown defense, which was exploited recently by Francisco Figueiredo. A fight that saw Rivera taken down each round, and controlled for a total of seven minutes of the fifteen minute fight. I expect more of the same, as Zhumagulov cruises to a unanimous decision.
|185 lbs.||Alen Amedovski vs. Hu Yaozong|
This fight is one of the odder one’s I’ve seen booked. Two fighters, who are 0-2 inside the octagon and quite frankly, I had no idea either were still in the UFC. Throw in the fact that Alen Amedovski hasn’t fought in nearly two years and Hu Yaozong is four months away from a three year absence – and I’m not really sure what to expect.
If I were to dissect this fight, it begins with the notion if either are truly UFC caliber. I think not. For one, Yaozong was signed after winning his first three fights against cans on the regional scene. With the UFC looking to expand in China, local talent was sought to fill out their card in Shanghai. Yaozong was fortunate to get the call, but clearly, it was too soon for the young fighter.
Meanwhile, Amedovski entered the UFC undefeated with an 8-0 record. All eight of his victories came via knockout. While cans are mixed into that record, Amedovski fought some real competition in Bellator. One fight lasted 109 seconds, while the other lasted a mere 12 seconds. In my opinion, the Macedonia born fighter was a good signing and ready for the octagon.
As for a prediction, I’m siding with Amedovski. Yaozong is far from UFC caliber and getting this third opportunity after being out for nearly three years is kind of crazy. Especially when you think of all the roster cuts they’ve made in the last year. Regardless, I got Amedovski getting his first UFC win via first round knockout.