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!
This card is incredible. These prelims alone could make up a killer Fight Night event and they’re being gifted to us on the simple glory of ESPN. We are headlined by a Strawweight battle for the next title shot between Nina Ansaroff and Tatiana Suarez along with other killers, like what will surely be a barn burner between Ricardo Lamas and Calvin Kattar!
Tatiana Suarez vs. Nina Ansaroff (SW)
After winning Season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter, Tatiana Suarez (7-0, 4-0 UFC) came into the UFC with a fire that has propelled her to the top. She has been touted as “the female Khabib” because of her expert wrestling, strength, and vicious ground and pound. In my opinion, what has made Suarez so difficult is her refusal to change her gameplan. If she doesn’t get the takedown, she shoots for another. What if she doesn’t get that one? Well, let’s have another! Even against the former champ Carla Esparza, an amazing wrestler in her own right, Suarez dominated her entirely and used her ground and pound to finish her in the third.
Nina Ansaroff (10-5, 4-2 UFC) is on a four-fight winning streak after a disappointing introduction to the Octagon. Most recently securing a decision win over Claudia Gadelha, Ansaroff proved she can hang with the big girls in this match. Ansaroff has crisp striking, decent power, and solid takedown defense. However, she certainly is more of a death by a thousand cuts striker who likes to work her opponents down to their bare minimum. “The Strina” is a pure fighter and only gets better as the fight goes on, simply refusing to give in to her opponent.
Ansaroff has the striking advantage and more power, so that’s where her chance is. Tatiana’s striking is pretty much a bunch of feints mixed in with leg kicks to get the fight to the mat. Ansaroff has an amazing takedown defense sitting at 80%, but I don’t think she can ward off Suarez for long. I have no doubt that Ansaroff can fight off a few takedowns, but Suarez will just fire them over and over again. I commend the survivability of Ansaroff so I think she can survive, but you can only last so long when you’re on your back with Suarez on top of you.
Take the Shot: Tatiana Suarez via Unanimous Decision
Pedro Munhoz vs. Aljamain Sterling (BW)
Pedro Munhoz (18-3, 8-3 UFC) came out victorious with a knockout over Cody Garbrandt in their one-round brawl. Munhoz has gone under the radar for most people with his quiet and respectful personality, which MMA fans quickly get bored of (looking at you, Conor). Despite that, Munhoz is an incredibly entertaining fighter with power and world-class jiu-jitsu. “The Young Punisher” loves his fair share of leg kicks and his kickboxing is something only increasing in technique and power.
One of the hottest talents currently at Bantamweight is Aljamain Sterling (17-3, 9-3 UFC), who recently overcame Jimmie Rivera, who will be on our main card tonight. “Funkmaster” is alright on the feet but mostly relies on his kicks. He will hold a massive 7-inch reach advantage but doesn’t use it right in his fights. His striking defense is put together and that combined with his kicks makes him sound defensively. Sterling’s greatest area of strength comes from his ground game. He has solid wrestling and takedowns, along with a plethora of submissions on his record.
I like the defense in Sterling’s game but he just simply cannot match with the Punisher’s boxing caliber and power. His best area of attention would be to go to the ground, but that’ much easier said than done against Pedro Munhoz. All but two of Munhoz’s 9 submissions came from a guillotine and if his arm is even remotely close to your neck, there’s a good to fair chance you will be submitted. This makes him incredibly difficult to take down and when Sterling inevitably looks to get away from Munhoz’s power, he has another credentialed and even more dangerous aspect of his game to deal with.
Take the Shot: Pedro Munhoz via Round 1 Submission
Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Alexa Grasso (SW)
Karolina Kowalkiewicz (12-4, 5-4 UFC) will be looking to make a quick turnaround after her loss to Michelle Waterson in late March. Kowalkiewicz looks very similar to her Polish counterpart in Joanna Jedrzejzyck with her love for a volume-based decision victory. Although KK’s Octagon record may not look the most impressive, she has only lost to the best of the best in the aforementioned Joanna, Waterson, and current champ Andrade.
Alexa Grasso (10-2, 2-2 UFC) has not been smiled upon in the public eye as of late, most recently being dominated and submitted by Tatiana Suarez in under 3 minutes. To her credit, Grasso is a striker and not built for a ground war. She has four knockouts on her record and a technical striking plan she brings in. She looks best when working her opponent from the outside and does not like to engage in brawls.
Making your money as a volume striker does not bode well for Grasso here. Kowalkiewicz is simply too good of a striker and too disciplined to give Grasso any opportunities on points and Grasso simply doesn’t have the level of power needed to put KK away. I see a back and forth fight with a Polish victory to get Karolina back on her horse.
Take the Shot: Karolina Kowalkiewicz via Unanimous Decision
Ricardo Lamas vs. Calvin Kattar (FTW)
37-year-old Ricardo Lamas (19-7, 10-5 UFC) is making a return to the sport’s greatest proving ground on this lovely night in Chicago. Lamas has been around since the days of the WEC and has the wins to show for it. “The Bully” has a well-developed game in all areas, including 6 knockouts, 5 submissions, and the gas tank to handle any decision. His striking is dangerous and shows an affinity for the power shots, although his value does leave something to be desired. I like his wrestling, but that has seemed to be the factor eluding him in recent years as he gets up there in age.
Calvin Kattar (19-3, 3-1 UFC) has been an up and comer from the 145ers for a good time now. His lone UFC loss came at the hands of #5 ranked Renato Moicano, which he bounced back from with a first-round knockout of Chris Fishgold. Kattar is primarily a striker with some nice power and a stifling jab. He can fight well off of his front foot or back foot and can use or avoid pressure very well. Even in his Moicano loss, he cracked him quite a few times. The weak spot in Kattar’s game in on the ground, but he can get back to his feet quickly and is difficult to hold down.
Although Lamas does have the better ground game, I don’t see a submission in this fight. 4 of his 5 subs have come from a guillotine, usually when his opponent shoots on him and that just won’t happen with Kattar. Kattar does not want to go to the ground and has the defense to avoid the fairly average takedowns of The Bully. That leaves it to a striking match, where Kattar is the worst enemy of Lamas, who has continuously struggled on these fighters who fight from range and pick him apart with a killer jab and precision.
Take the Shot: Calvin Kattar via Round 3 Knockout
There ya have it, folks. These fights will be on ESPN so make sure to pay that cable bill. You can check out the predictions for the early prelims right here and don’t forget to tune in tomorrow for the picks for the gorgeous main card!
Until next time, Freaks.