First things first. As you can probably tell by the title, some things are changing with the way we do our predictions over here at FFF. Most notably, I’m going to be splitting my predictions into three posts for main event cards (numbered UFCs like 238) and two posts for Fight Nights. The reason for this is that I felt like I wasn’t as accurate for the ones I hadn’t spent as much time on in the earlier fights of the night, not to mention that this should also let me get all these posts out earlier, especially on weeks where there isn’t a card the weekend in between. The other change is we will now be going from the top down instead of the bottom up. Other than that, expect the same content as before, just with more thought and time put in!
Our early prelims being kicked off at 6:15 are chock-full of fun. We have two hefty women’s bouts, one between Joanne Calderwood and Katlyn Chookagian for what seems to be the next crack at the Flyweight belt. On top of that, we have some hard hitters coming in to show us a good time and kick things off on this wild night of fights!
Xiaonan Yan vs. Angela Hill (SW)
Xiaonan Yan (10-1, 3-0 UFC) is yet another top female prospect coming out of China. “Fury” fights just like her name suggests, pressures her opponent and using one of the most relentless paces I’ve seen in the Octagon. She has one of the best sidekicks, outside of Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and has an INSANE 7.04 striking average. And you know, just brutal power on top of that too. Although she still has not gotten a finish in the UFC, she has certainly busted up each opponent unfortunate enough to get thrown in the cage with her.
You really have to give it up for Angela Hill (9-6, 3-4 UFC) and her activity this year with this match being her third fight in just as many months. Hill is a decision fighter who backs up her punches with a pace very similar to Xiaonan. Hill has not been super successful in the Octagon and that is in part to her striking only style where Hill does not look good on the ground. Luckily for her, her opponent tonight is just as content to stand and trade as “Overkill” is.
Normally, when there’s a fighter as relatively inexperienced as Xiaonan with that power, you see someone who throws a couple power shots with feints to set them up. Not Xiaonan. She throws 3, 4, 7-punch combos that are seriously difficult to deal with. I’ve said in my prior reviews about Hill that I don’t see her going for and being too low-level to be a star in the most packed female division. I stand by that statement here. Xiaonan Yan has power, ridiculous volume, better defense, and higher cardio than Hill. Outside of a lucky power shot, the only thing Hill has on her side is a chin that has held up through many battles.
Take the Shot: Xiaonan Yan via Unanimous Decision
Bevon Lewis vs. Darren Stewart (MW)
After two knockout wins on the Contender Series without going into the third, Bevon Lewis (6-1, 0-1 UFC) fell to a late knockout by Uriah Hall. Lewis is the newest fighter to come out of Jackson-Wink (home of Jon Jones and Holly Holm) and has shown that caliber in his striking and cardio. Lewis looks a lot like Jon Jones when he fights, using his massive 6’3 frame and reach to pressure his opponent and fire long jabs, as well as those front teep kicks. Although he doesn’t have a ridiculous amount of power, Lewis has the volume, precision and most importantly, the gas tank to work his opponent to their breaking point.
Darren Stewart (9-4-1, 2-4-1 UFC) has made his reputation inside the Octagon with crisp Muay Thai and violent power. With 7 wins on his record by knockout, “The Dentist” has proved himself a violent force in the cage. He has fairly good head movement and a lot of feinting but makes most of his money as a counterpuncher. He can put anyone to sleep with one shot, but also has decent wrestling and will shoot a takedown if things aren’t working out on the feet.
Lewis is a high-touted prospect and has all the weapons in his arsenal to be just that. The one weak spot that I have noticed in his game is when he is pressured. When Bevon initiates, he can put up many strikes from all sorts of weird angles, but when he gets pressured, he doesn’t have that same skill. Stewart just doesn’t have the pressure to do that and Lewis has a 3-inch height and 5-inch reach advantage that will certainly lessen those thunderous punches.
Take the Shot: Bevon Lewis via Unanimous Decision
Eddie Wineland vs. Grigory Popov (BW)
A true UFC veteran is Eddie Wineland (23-13, 5-7 UFC), who has been around since the WEC was bought by the UFC and was fighting in the WEC since 2006. Still only 34 years, Wineland is looking to right his two-fight losing streak and show people why he has been a mainstay of the Bantamweights for such a long time. Eddie is such a beloved fighter and became a champion because of his fast and powerful striking, giving him 14 wins by knockout. Although holding more than a few losses, Wineland has only been knocked out twice and tends to only be beaten by fighters who use wrestling or a volume-based style to win a decision.
We have the ultimate new school vs. old school matchup here with Grigory Popov (13-1) making his Octagon debut. Oddly enough, Popov is actually the older fighter in this match at 35 years old. Popov trains out of Tiger Muay Thai in Thailand and as a result, he is a very technical fighter. He shoots off a wide variety of leg kicks and fire shots from a distance. Although holding three submissions on his record, including two by a gogoplata, Popov does not go for takedowns often and has found himself on his back when he does hit the mat.
My big issue with Grigory Popov is that his record is ludicrously inflated. He has only fought two fighters with more than five wins on their record, with one being his lone loss. Popov does not strike at a high enough rate to stop Wineland and his lack of a ground game leads me to believe that if this somehow does head to the mat, it will be Eddie on top. Popov’s shot here seems to be a knockout and the chin of his opponent is much too durable to be taken advantage of.
Take the Shot: Eddie Wineland via Round 3 Knockout
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Joanne Calderwood (FLW)
Katlyn Chookagian (11-2, 4-2 UFC) has consistently been at the upper echelon of the Flyweight division. Chookagian likes to get her wins in with a high volume striking style and although she doesn’t pack the most power she has the overwhelming volume and technique to make every fight close. Both of her losses have come in split decisions to Liz Carmouche and Jessica Eye, who is fighting for the title on the main card. Her cardio and quick movement make her a problem for anyone to deal with.
Joanne Calderwood (13-3, 5-3 UFC) is most definitely the sweetest Scot in the UFC. After a disappointing stint at Strawweight, JoJo moved back up to Flyweight, where she is since rocking a 2-0 record at the higher weight. Jojo is similar to Chookagian in her volume style and she certainly packs a knockout threat in those hands. On top of that, she is not afraid to shoot for a takedown although I see her best work usually being on the feet.
I’m surprised that this fight isn’t the headliner. It’s much more prominent than the Yan-Hill match as this one is most likely for the next title shot. When looking at styles on the feet, both fighters are very similar, with Jojo landing at only a slightly higher clip, which is actually the highest rate of any Flyweight in the UFC. Although she hasn’t leaned back on her wrestling in the past, she would do well to use that against the striking-focused Chookagian and Jojo does have a history in jiu-jitsu training, which adds another sword in her weapons bag that Chookagian just doesn’t have. This will be a close one and a fun match with a high volume. I think Jojo will edge out “Blonde Fighter” by the numbers to get the win.
Take the Shot: Joanne Calderwood via Split Decision
Make sure to tune in on Fight Pass to catch these fights. Tune in the next few days to see the predictions for the prelims and the main card coming to us from Chicago!
Until next time, Freaks.