UFC Fight Night 194 Main Card On ESPN+ (4 p.m. ET):

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115 lbs.: Mackenzie Dern vs. Marina Rodriguez – This is an exciting main event that features two of the very best Strawweight’s. The fact that both women have only lost once professionally, just shows you the pedigree in talent we have here in the main event. Marina Rodriguez is a pure striker who carries some legitimate power in the Strawweight division. Should she shore up her takedown defense, the sky’s the limit for Rodriguez. The same could be said about Mackenzie Dern, but in regards to her striking. Already an excellent grappler and submission artist, should Dern’s striking get to a point where she is hurting opponents on the feet, then watch out. I will say though, Dern’s striking has come a long ways and is much better than given credit for.

As for a prediction, I have Dern. While I’m concerned about Dern striking with Rodriguez long enough to get hurt, I can’t look past Rodriguez’s leaky takedown defense. In three fights, where Rodriguez lost and drew twice, she was taken down a combined ten times. The blueprint on how to neutralize the Brazilian striker is there, and I see it being exploited once again. The even bigger problem is if Rodriguez can fend off Dern’s submissions. If she can survive, there is a chance she can come back in the Championship rounds. However, I don’t foresee that happening, as I have Dern winning via submission.

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170 lbs.: Randy Brown vs. Jared Gooden – This could be a sleeper for Fight of the Night, as this fight should primarily take place on the feet. Randy Brown is a well rounded fighter, who has shown an evolution to his game each time in the octagon. Whether it’s striking, wrestling or grappling, Brown has shown he can be dangerous wherever the fight goes. However, on the feet, Brown will have to avoid being tagged by the power that Jared Gooden possesses. With fourteen stoppage victories and eight via knockout, Gooden’s game revolves around avoiding the scorecards.

As for a prediction, I have Brown winning. I believe we have something special here in Brown. While his last three wins were over more notable names, the co-main event spotlight seems like a nod from the UFC. One that indicates bigger things are along the horizon should he win. For the fight at hand, Brown is simply better wherever the fight goes. That’s not to say Gooden, who is a high output striker with power and good takedown defense isn’t capable of flipping the script. However, Gooden is absorbing 7.55 significant strikes per minute. Against Brown that won’t fly. In fact, I predict that Brown wins this fight via knockout.

125 lbs.: Tim Elliott vs. Matheus Nicolau – This is an exciting fight, that like most Flyweight bouts, will be high paced. Tim Elliott is a workhorse. Whether he’s on the feet or wrestling, Elliott does everything at 100%. His game is centered around breaking opponents with his pace, cardio and constant wrestling attacks. While he has had his hiccups, the former title challenger seems rejuvenated during this two-fight winning streak. The darkhorse of the division Matheus Nicolau is a well rounded fighter who mixes in his striking and grappling well. With excellent counters and rare power for the division, Nicolau can be a problem to stand with.

As for a prediction, I have Nicolau. While Elliott has the style to overwhelm opponents, he has also shown an ability to put himself into disadvantageous positions. In fact, of Elliott’s nine losses in the UFC, four of them have come via submission. That’s not going to fly against Nicolau, who has finished four of his last eight fights. With solid takedown defense and grappling, Nicolau is going to make it extremely tough for Elliott to find success with his wrestling. As the rounds wane, I believe that Nicolau is going to hurt Elliott on the feet and submit him.

125 lbs.: Mariya Agapova vs. Sabina Mazo – This is a tough fight to call. Obviously recency bias can get into your head in a fight like this, but it’s important to realize that sometimes fighters have a bad night at the office. It happens. Mariya Agapova is still a dangerous fighter, who has the skills to make a run in this division. She is mainly an aggressive striker, who isn’t afraid to brawl. However, she has shown some wrestling skills mixed in once in awhile. With seven finishes in her nine wins, expect Agapova to always hunt for the finish. However, Sabina Mazo is extremely durable. The Columbian is a talented striker who is excellent in keeping distance. From there, she will often outpoint her opponents with volume. In fact, in the last three fights, Mazo has landed over 100 significant strikes.

As for a prediction, I have Mazo. I believe she has good size for the weight class and her ability to land at a high output will always be a factor should the fight stay on the feet. Agapova should have her moments though, as her aggression and wrestling could factor in swinging this fight. However, Agapova needs to be more active and stick to a game plan. Should she be wild and look for the finish, the cardio issues will present itself once again. In the end though, Mazo does a little more activity-wise to sway the judges for a decision victory.

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185 lbs.: Phil Hawes vs. Deron Winn – This is a tough fight for Deron Winn, as the undersized Middleweight will need to find a way to break the solid takedown defense of Phil Hawes. Given that Hawes himself is a wrestler, who has an excellent base and a hulking physique, I find it hard to see Winn having much success. On the feet, it’s no contest. Winn is tough, but will need to overcome a six inch height and eight inch reach advantage. Throw in the fact that Hawes has legitimate knockout power, and I really don’t see this going all too well for the former collegiate wrestler.

As for a prediction, I obviously have Phil Hawes. The man is a legitimate tank and has the skills to make a run in this division. On the other hand, Winn is an excellent wrestler who is being held back by being undersized. I’m not sure if the thought of trying to make Welterweight is in his plans, but I don’t see how much longer the UFC keeps him around if he sticks at Middleweight. Especially if Winn is given matchups that stylistically give him little to no shot. In the end, I foresee Hawes turning aside Winn’s constant takedown attempts and eventually knocking him out on the feet.

UFC Fight Night 194 Prelims Card On ESPN+ (1 p.m. ET):

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135 lbs.: Felipe Colares vs. Chris Gutierrez – Slowly but surely, Chris Gutierrez is making a name for himself in the Bantamweight division. With some of the best leg kicks in the UFC, Gutierrez has made it a habit of chopping down his opponents. While he has shown some wrestling chops, it’s his takedown defense that has been impressive. In fact, following his UFC debut, Gutierrez has turned aside nineteen of the twenty four takedown attempts. The same can’t be said about Felipe Colares though, who has been taken down twenty one times in four fights. With a 36% takedown defense, Colares would prefer to keep the fight standing. With fast hands, Colares has shown if you give him space, he will tag you.

As for a prediction, I have Gutierrez winning. The American has been excellent thus far in the UFC, showing a consistent striking attack targeted around leg kicks. In fact, in six UFC fights, the lowest percentage of leg kicks landed amongst total strikes was 43%. Not many fighters on the roster come close to that percentage, as Gutierrez is a specialist like Jose Aldo was back in WEC. In what should be a fun fight, I do believe that Gutierrez will outpoint Colares and win via decision.

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265 lbs.: Alexandr Romanov vs. Jared Vanderaa – This is going to be a fun fight for however long it lasts, as both men enter this fight with a knack of finishing opponents. Alexandr Romanov is a well rounded fighter, who has shown a propensity to take opponents down. In three UFC fights, Romanov has landed eight takedowns. In two of those fights, he has won via submission. Jared Vanderaa will like to avoid being taken down, as the Heavyweight profiles as a striker. With good cardio and an ability to fire off strikes at a high output, Vanderaa isn’t someone that can easily be outpointed on the feet.

As for a prediction, I have Romanov winning. In Vanderaa’s debut against Serghei Spivac, he showed an inability to stay upright. In fact, Spivac was successful in all three takedown attempts. While on the mat, Spivac controlled Vanderaa for a whopping 8:30 of the 9:32 of the fight – eventually winning via TKO. Given all that, I don’t see how Vanderaa doesn’t suffer the same fate. Romanov is a strong wrestler, who is insanely active with ground-and-pound and submission attempts. In other words, this fight ends in round one via TKO.

145 lbs.: Damon Jackson vs. Charles Rosa – If you like grappling, this is the fight for you. Damon Jackson is a grappling specialist who hunts for the submission. With little to no striking, things can get dicey for Jackson should he be turned aside on the grappling front. However, given Jackson has only lost four of his twenty four professional fights, I’d say his style has been very successful. For Rosa, he mainly profiles as a striker who mixes in his wrestling occasionally. While Rosa can grapple, he also has been stymied by those who are better than him on the ground. However, with eight submission wins and no losses via submission, Rosa is by no means a slouch on the mat.

As for a prediction, I’m going to go with Damon Jackson. While Rosa is the better all around fighter, his problems against strong grapplers are glaring. With a mere 37% takedown defense, Rosa’s inability to keep the fight upright is problematic. Especially in this fight, where Jackson has zero intentions to strike. So with that said, Rosa’s curse of failing to win two consecutive fights continues, as Jackson takes this one via decision.

115 lbs.: Lupita Godinez vs. Silvana Gomez Juarez – This could be a fun fight, as Silvana Gomez Juarez is a striker who has won six of her ten fights via knockout. I will say though, from the tape I’ve seen, she doesn’t really have power. Instead, she is technical and accurate. Using distance and a quick jab, Juarez has the ability to frustrate opponents. However, Lupita Godinez is well rounded and physically strong. While she has the ability to apply pressure on the feet, I believe it’s her wrestling abilities that might come in handy in this fight.

As for a prediction, I have Godinez winning. While I do favor Godinez on the feet, if she decides to give Juarez space, the debutant could very well keep this fight close. However, Godinez is the better all around fighter. With pressure and strength, I see her using a combination of striking and wrestling to beat Juarez. Let’s say via decision.

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155 lbs.: Steve Garcia vs. Charlie Ontiveros – After a scary UFC debut that saw Charlie Ontiveros slammed on his neck and a six-month suspension from a failed test, the American Badboy will seek to put the past behind him. Ontiveros is a pure striker, who has fought the majority of his fights at Welterweight. Standing at 6’2, Ontiveros will hold height and reach advantages over most Lightweights. Steve Garcia is no slouch in the size department either, standing at 6’0 tall. Garcia too is a striker, who is rangy and versatile. With legitimate power, Garcia has recorded eight of his eleven wins via knockout.

As for a prediction, I have Garcia. While Ontiveros will hold decent height and reach advantages, he will be outgunned on the feet. From the tape I’ve seen, Ontiveros not only is a low output striker, but he holds his hands down low. Also, his thin frame at Lightweight will open him up to being hurt with body shots. In the end, Garcia will eventually find the mark and knockout Ontiveros.

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