Goddamn, it’s the year of the Welterweights. This card is once again stacked with new prospects and high-level contenders, such as Maycee Barber, Justin Willis, and Showtime Pettis at Welterweight. To be honest, I’ve been so wrapped up in all the fight goodies of the past month and the absolute glory of the ESPN era that I thought this fight was still at least a few weeks away, but lucky me. It’s now! Last week was a fun week at Fight Night 147, and you can see how my predictions matched up on the results here.
Before we dive on in, just a quick note. All Pay-per-views are now going to be available exclusively on ESPN+. While I don’t exactly agree with it, it is what it is. Onto the fights.
Eric Shelton vs. Jordan Espinosa (FLW)
Eric Shelton worked to make it out of TUF 24 but got seriously messed up by Tim Elliot. His 2-3 UFC record makes it so that he may very well be fighting for his spot in the roster. Although having decent standup and threatening submissions, all 5 of “Showtime”‘s UFC bouts have gone the distance, 3 in a split decision. I’m not super high on this guy and I think he is way too inconsistent to put anything on. Sorry bud, but there’s only one REAL “Showtime” on this card.
Jordan Espinosa will be making his Octagon debut after an impressive submission on DWTNCS. The 13-5 fighter gets by on his feet, having never been knocked out, but his real game is when it goes to the ground. He holds 7 wins by submission and I’m going to give the edge on the ground to Jordan. His issue will be his endurance. Espinosa has that Cody Garbrandt fire of rushing out the second the fight starts and that may hurt him here against someone who can always make it to decision. He’s riding a 4-fight win streak and I would not count him out. This is a hard one for me.
Take the Shot: Jordan Espinosa via Unanimous Decision
Ryan MacDonald vs. Chris Gutierrez (BW)
The former MCF BW and FW champion Ryan MacDonald is definitely the more well-rounded one here. He has impressive standup and a submission opportunity. He is making his UFC debut, so the “bright lights factor” does come into question. Ultimately, he seems well rounded and has a solid endurance and ability to keep the fight where he wants it. He would be best to go to the ground with Gutierrez and try to attack the holes in his ground game. The issue with me for MacDonald is that he tends to not hold any defense. While I’m hoping he has worked to remedy this, that will be an issue against someone with as good striking as Gutierrez.
Chris Gutierrez seems to be extremely well-rounding and durable when you look at his record. The 12-4 “El Guapo” has 6 KOs and a submission mixed in. However, his ground game is too porous for my taste and I would not bet on that. His standup is best described as quick movements, trying to pick apart his opponent from range. Although he seems to be fast and has solid endurance, his strikes come in rather slow and are easy to read and his chin is exposed too much for my taste. However, his big shots always show an opportunity to hurt his opponent. Ultimately, this comes down to the defense of MacDonald. If he plays it smart, he should get a submission. If not, he’s gonna taste canvas.
Take the Shot: Chris Gutierrez via Knockout
Randa Markos vs. Angela Hill (SW)
Ahhh yes, the fight of inconsistency. Both of these fighters have shown splashes of greatness, but have been muddled by mediocre performances. Randa Markos has alternated wins and losses predictably, most recently getting a draw with Marina Rodriguez. She pretty much holds her own on the feet, never having been knocked out and throwing a massive right hand into a takedown to use her wrestling. “Quiet Storm” has fair submission skill, but normally grinds to a decision which she may or may not win.
Angela Hill, on the other hand, is much more of a stand-up fighter. She has 3 pro knockouts on her record, but has never finished anyone in the Octagon. I don’t expect her to finish Markos, but she may very well beat her on the feet. The issue for me is that Markos has a significantly better ground game and if she uses it, she should find a submission or decision. However, I’m not confident in either fighter as they both have a tendency to just not show up.
Probably Don’t Take the Shot: Angela Hill via Split Decision
Alexis Davis vs. Jennifer Maia (FLW)
Alexis Davis returns to the Octagon this weekend. This will be her tenth fight in the UFC and her 6-3 UFC record was set back with a decision loss to Katlyn Chookagian last July. Although Davis has solid boxing and 2 KO victories (one being over Amanda Nunes back in 2011), her main skill is in her wrestling and submissions, where she holds 8 submission wins. “Ally-Gator” has been around forever and has since become sort of a gatekeeper for the Flyweights. Her biggest strength is in her wrestling and she will look to use her 2-inch height and 4-inch reach advantage.
Jennifer Maia is very similar with a jiu-jitsu skill. She seems to have solid submissions, but sometimes lacks the wrestling to get it there. Her biggest advantage in this fight to me seems to be her Muay Thai boxing, and if she keeps it on the feet, she can get a win. Both fighters have a jiu-jitsu black belt and gas shouldn’t be a factor with Davis’ experience and Maia’s three 5-round champ fights at Invicta.
This is a very close fight, but I am going to take the underdog in Jennifer Maia. I see this as a wash in either fighter on the ground, and Maia will be more than able to handle herself if Davis grounds her. Maia seems to have much more devastating boxing than Davis and I think she can fight through the wrestling to pull a decision.
Take the Shot: Jennifer Maia via Unanimous Decision
Frankie Saenz vs. Marlon Vera (BW)
If you don’t remember, this bout was canceled from UFC 235 after Marlon Vera came down with an illness. Luckily for both fighters, this bout was rescheduled quickly and their training pre-235 will still hold for them. Frankie Saenz is a wrestler who likes to grind his way to a decision. Not packing a lot of power or the submission chops to finish a fight, he prefers to tear away his opponent’s advantages and gas them using his wrestling and superior athleticism.
I don’t think this will work too well against Marlon Vera. Although his 6-4 Octagon record does not seem all that impressive, he has speed and an incredible ground game, as well as being a hard hitter for the 35ers. His gas tank does not typically go down, and all 5 of his losses are in decision, so Saenz really has no shot of a finish. But as I said above, Saenz is more than happy with that. Vera’s path to victory would be best sought by pushing after his hard on the feet, as his standup is better in my eyes. He also has the submission possibility to handle himself on the ground when Saenz inevitably shoots.
Take the Shot: Marlon Vera via Submission
Bryce Mitchell vs. Bobby Moffett (FW)
Bryce Mitchell comes in with a 10-0 record as a TUF vet. “Thug Nasty” is a submission fighter with 8 submissions and 2 decisions, 7 of which coming in the first round. His striking is quick and crisp and offers high volume, but doesn’t exactly pack the knockout power. I do like these submission fighters who can fight a way to victory whenever it hits the mat, and Mitchell’s grappling definitely offers that possibility. His striking is mostly used as a way to get close and grab a takedown, which he can often grab using his wrestling pedigree.
Bobby Moffett is cut from the same cloth, as his 14-3 record has 9 submissions on it. A DWTNCS alum, Moffett used a Brabo choke to come into the UFC and used another to submit Chas Skelly to cement his spot. “The Wolfman” seems to be more skilled at jiu-jitsu but his wrestling is a bit lacking for me. Moffett’s striking seems better to me and although he doesn’t pack a ton of power, he does have the skill to hold an advantage on the feet. Although neither of these fighters has lost by submission, Moffett seems to have the better ability to get out of his opponent’s attacks. This is a close match, but I have to give it to Moffett based on his more well-rounded game, although a submission from Mitchell would not surprise me.
Take the Shot: Bobby Moffett via Submission
Maycee Barber vs. JJ Aldrich (SW)
I think that this fight is actually what I’m looking forward to most of all. Maycee Barber impressed with her UFC debut win over Hannah Cifers, absolutely beating her into the ground after a dominant first round. Knockout power is rare for Strawweights, yet “The Future” can damage quickly with her expert Muay Thai and quick striking. Her ground game also impresses, with two first-round submissions on her record and surprisingly good grappling. The Strawweight division is quickly becoming stacked and Barber seems to be one of the fighters looking to define the top of the division.
In terms of fighting style, JJ Aldrich reminds me a lot of Tecia Torres. She has a chin and uses high output to pull decision victories. She also has the ability to lean on her wrestling if she feels outmatched on the feet. The problem I see for her is that she can’t ride her way to a decision with Maycee, who can hold a high pace AND high power. Power is not something Aldrich has had to deal with and her ground game still looks too exploitable to me.
While Barber looks to hold an advantage in many areas, to me her biggest buff is her confidence. Self-belief does wonders in the Octagon and her belief and expert footwork will keep her able to work all day on the feet with Aldrich. Barber would be smart to use her grappling and take away any possible avenue to victory that Aldrich has.
Take the Shot: Maycee Barber via TKO
Luis Pena vs. Steven Peterson (FW)
Luis Pena is certainly well-rounded. He has more skill than his 5-1 record would suggest, with his only loss coming by split decision and every win coming by finish. His grappling looks to be his best area, as he has 4 submissions. “Violent Bob Ross” is dropping to Featherweight and is a whopping 6’3. 6’3!!! As a Featherweight!! Those long limbs will do him a lot of favors on both the feet and on the ground, and he should be able to pick Peterson apart from range.
Pena will hold a 6-inch height advantage and a 5-inch reach advantage.
Steven Peterson lost in a split decision to Benito Lopez on DWTNCS, then came into the UFC losing a decision to Brandon Davis. He got a winning record after beating Matt Bessette in another decision. His 17-7 record has 12 finishes, 4 by KO and 8 by submission. His best skills come in the form of his grappling, where his wrestling skill can lead him into submissions. He is more than willing to throw down and has the chin to back it up with 6 of his losses in decision. What looks the best to me is that he is able to take a shot and keep coming. In the words of Snoop Dogg, “He [Peterson] don’t give a hot damn!”
I see Pena being far enough at range to tear into Peterson on the feet and more than able to deal with Peterson’s wrestling. Even if “Ocho”s chin holds up, Pena will have the ability to score more than enough shots. The X-factor here though is Peterson’s love to turn each fight into a brawl. That will be what he has to do here in order to come away with a victory, but I see Violent Bob Ross having the edge no matter where this goes.
Take the Shot: Luis Pena by Unanimous Decision
Jussier Formiga vs. Deiveson Figueiredo (FLW)
Jussier Formiga was once seen as the best Flyweight on the planet, prior to the UFC taking it over. Now, as the division faces a potential sacking, Formiga is coming back to bat. Formiga is a submission fighter without any knockouts on his 22-5 record, but he has shown speed and volume to represent himself well on the feet. However, he has been shown to be hit in the past and has been knocked out twice in the UFC, which isn’t all that common among Flyweights.
Deiveson Figueiredo seems much more well-rounded to me and seems more likely to get the finish. His 15-0 record has 8 knockouts on it, along with 5 submissions. He seems to be able to handle himself on the ground, which that Brazilian ground game, although Formiga may just barely take the edge. Figueiredo will hold a heavy advantage on the feet and reminds me of Mighty Mouse in that aspect. I’m going to take the underdog here as he seems better equipped to handle Formiga and threaten his own attacks.
Take the Shot: Deiveson Figueiredo via Knockout
John Makdessi vs. Jesus Pinedo (LW)
John Makdessi is a pure striker who is underrated in my opinion. He packs a lot of counterpunching power and holds a drastic advantage on the feet. He’s been in the UFC much longer than his 1-fight counterpart and has taken on much more devastating fighters. “The Bull” uses reverse wrestling to keep it on the feet. I would compare him to Volkan Oezdemir in the sense that if he gets you in close, he can shut you out in a second.
Jesus Pinedo has only one fight in the Octagon where he went to a unanimous decision against Devin Powell. He is the much more well-rounded fighter, and if I was Pinedo I would go the ground and take advantage of Makdessi’s purely defensive style. Regardless, I’m going to have to go with the more experienced fighter, as I haven’t seen anything incredibly impressive for Pinedo so far.
Take the Shot: John Makdessi via Knockout
Curtis Blaydes vs. Justin Willis (HW)
Poor, poor Curtis Blaydes. He was seen as a rising star and a Brock Lesnar style wrestler with heavy hands that was a threat to all the elite in the Heavyweight division. But he was sacrificed to The Predator twice, most recently knocked out in the first minute back in November. Blaydes still represents a huge threat, with wrestling skill and heavy hands. His wrestling and gas tank are his biggest advantages in a division where most guys can barely take a lap without breaking into a brutal sweat. He has shown his ability (except against Ngannou) to use his wrestling to tire out heavy hitters and take away a lot of their power.
He will hold a three-inch height and reach advantage against Big Pretty.
Justin Willis seems to be the new Mark Hunt. A slow-paced heavy hitter who can stop fights with one big shot, he plods around the Octagon waiting for his hit. However, he also has surprising technical boxing and agility for his build. He is riding an 8-fight win streak after losing his pro debut. However, all but one of his Octagon fights have gone to decision and he seems to have been graced by fighters who can’t keep up the pace that Blaydes can. I don’t see Willis holding any advantages over Blaydes, except maybe one shot power.
Take the Shot: Curtis Blaydes via Knockout
Stephen Thompson vs. Anthony Pettis (WW)
Wonderboy Thompson makes his return after 10 months coming off a loss from recently smashed Darren Till. Though he lost the unanimous decision, it was a fight that many, including myself, thought he won. Thompson is without a doubt in the division’s elite. His only losses come from Matt Brown, Darren Till, and Tyron Woodley all in decision. With an extra strike or two, he may very well be our champion. A karate-style fighter, Thompson has the precision striking and solid grappling defense to keep the fight right where he wants it, being able to pick his opponent apart from the outside.
Anthony Pettis is a fan favorite, especially after his fight with Tony Ferguson. The former lightweight champ is stepping up to welterweight to try his luck against that division. Pettis no doubt has the chin and power to stand with the bigger boys, but his main advantage in this fight will be his jiu-jitsu. Wonderboy has the defensive wrestling to keep the fight on the feet, but no offensive attack from the ground. However, Pettis rarely likes to go to the ground, and he has been successful with that, for the most part. Pettis seems more well-rounded and I actually think he packs a harder punch than Thompson and also has a well-built ground game. If this fight goes to decision, I think Thompson has the win, but I don’t see it getting there.
Take the Shot: Anthony Pettis via Knockout
So we have another great card ahead of us. I can’t wait to see what all goes on this weekend, and this card holds many fighters who may well be the next great fighters.
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Have fun this weekend. If you are a true MMA fan, this is not a card you want to miss.
I’ll catch ya later, Freaks!