This weekend, the Octagon is traveling to the Lone Star state for a Welterweight showdown between a Brazilian and a Brit, because why should they have a local? Before that, we have our prelims ahead of us on this glorious ESPN night, headlined between scrapping Featherweight Alex Caceres and Steven Peterson!
Alex Caceres vs. Steven Peterson (FTW)
Perennial contender Alex Caceres (14-12, 9-10 UFC) is pretty much as unorthodox as they come. He has incredible speed and is difficult to get hands on, in addition to having a grappling game. His struggle is inconsistency and being able to perform against higher level talent, alternating wins and losses all over his record. His best work comes in striking and being able to pound away on his opponent with his speed.
Steven Peterson lost his Contender Series shot to Benito Lopez, but came in late notice against Brandon Davis to wind up in the cage all the same. The former Bantamweight packs more power at 145 and has been incredibly successful in brawls and being able to dish out unrelenting damage against his opponent when they come at him. “Ocho” has a great submission game with 8 subs from all kinds of chokes, including the rare omoplata.
Both these fighters come to scrap everytime. Caceres has the better striking defense and the speed to trip up Peterson. However, Peterson has the ground advantage with a dominant wrestling game against a mediocre wrestler. He has quite a few subs to pad his record against a fighter who has more than half his losses in submission. The issue is that Peterson has relied to heavily on that striking and his failures in gas tank have made even his win in the Octagon a close spectacle. This is a close fight and one that will be entertaining, but unless Peterson can establish ground control, he is in for a rough ride. Caceres can brawl better than anyone and isn’t the usual fighter Peterson has dealt with, taking few shots and dishing out more while moving QUICK.
Take the Shot: Alex Caceres via Unanimous Decision
Irene Aldana vs. Raquel Pennington (BW)
Irene Aldana (10-4, 3-2 UFC) is riding a three-fight winning streak since moving up to Bantamweight, most recently piecing up Bethe Correia before submitting her in the third. The Mexican fighter has incredible boxing and next-level brawling skills, as well as the power to end the fight. She has an amazing skill at defending takedowns but also has good submission ability. Still, her best area is in her boxing and ability to utilize her range and piece up her opponent.
Since defeating Miesha Tate, Raquel Pennington (9-7, 7-4 UFC) has been on a two-fight skid, dropping her title shot against Nunes and a subsequent matchup against Germaine de Randamie. “Rocky” is a jack of all trades, master of none with good boxing and a built wrestling game but without the power to finish fights or submit her opponent. However, she uses incredible control and pacing, as well as great striking defense to tangle on the feet.
The recipe for beating Pennington is out there. If you can stuff her takedowns and have good enough striking, you’re pretty much in the clear. There are few with better boxing than Aldana and she should easily be able to work Rocky over on the feet with volume, as well as having better power. While I give the wrestling advantage to Pennington, Aldana has AMAZING takedown defense, as well as the submission chops to get a finish if she finds the opportunity. Either way, we will almost certainly have a brawl between these two contenders in what will be a fun and fast-paced match.
Take the Shot: Irene Aldana via Unanimous Decision
Sam Alvey vs. Klidson de Abreu (LHW)
Veteran Middleweight Sam Alvey (33-12, 10-7 UFC) stepped up to LHW in 2017 to put on a 3-3 record but is now coming off two straight knockouts. The striker has serious power, winning an astonishing 19 fights by KO. Alvey has amazing takedown defense and furious striking power, but has struggled to find those big shots when being pressured. The way to win for Alvey is to keep the fight standing and use his volume and power to punch his win in.
The punishing striking and grappling of Klidson de Abreu (14-3, 0-1 UFC) was muddled in the clinch by Magomed Ankalaev in February. “Urso Branco” goes in for the finish in every fight, having 4 knockouts, 10 subs, and not a single decision win. De Abreu has some power in his hands, but mostly uses his ground game and submissions to win, taking home submission victories over Viktor Nemkov and rising prospect Johnny Walker.
If Alvey’s takedown defense holds up, he could win this fight, but de Abreu does his best work when controlling the fight and pace. The Gracie jiu-jitsu fighter is a real threat on the ground and specialist there, but Alvey is as good as it gets with defense on the mat. Klidson has had issues striking with volume and his striking is too wild and looping to catch Alvey witha. power shot, so he should be able to point-fight to a decision or force a KO.
Take the Shot: Sam Alvey via Unanimous Decision
Roxanne Modafferi vs. Jennifer Maia (FLW)
Roxanne Modafferi (23-15, 2-2 UFC) stunned everyone when she pulled off a massive upset against Antonina Shevchenko (that’s Val’s sister; don’t get it twisted). “The Happy Warrior” has quickly become a personality and although this match was meant to be against Liz Carmouche, but got derailed due to Carmouche’s title shot against Valentina Shevchenko, she will have an opportunity to climb up the rankings again here. Modafferi uses wrestling in combination with striking, and although she isn’t the most finish-heavy fighter, she’s hard to put out.
A loss to Liz Carmouche derailed Jennifer Maia (16-5-1, 1-1 UFC) in her UFC debut, but she turned the tide against Alexis Davis. The striker has punishing striking and a good bit of power, but has failed on the ground, being dominated by Carmouche and even falling to Davis in her matchup (although she recovered to get the win). Maia mixes up her strikes with a Muay Thai background and a black belt in jiu-jitsu to show she isn’t entirely lost on the mat.
This looks to be the Carmouche match reincarnate. Although Modafferi has poor striking defense, Maia struggles from the same issue and will be giving up five inches of reach to Modafferi. I doubted the wrestling of Modafferi against Shev, but she used it to get it done. A close boxing match will give The Happy Warrior a way to use her wrestling to take home a dominant win.
Take the Shot: Roxanne Modafferi via Unanimous Decision
Ray Borg vs. Gabriel Silva (BW)
After losing in his 125-pound title shot against Demetrious Johnson, Ray Borg (11-4, 5-4 UFC) moved up to BW, where he dropped a controversial loss against debuting Casey Kenney. He draws another debuting fighter tonight for a second shot at both 135 pounds and making weight. Borg is a good striker but really controls the game on the ground, with great wrestling and six sub wins. “The Tazmexican Devil” really needs this win to prove what he has.
Gabriel Silva (8-0) has a tough debut ahead of him. The Team Nog fighter is an absolute powerhouse, who moves forward with violent pressure and fires shots over and over again. His striking is sloppy, but has gotten the job done so far with sheer volume and power. He has good wrestling and a submission game that is not well represented by his record, where he hasn’t gotten a sub since his professional debut.
Although I think Borg is too small for Bantamweight, he is fighting someone here who has roughly the same frame. Borg has been fighting elites at Flyweight for the longest time and this match should be his. His ground game is world-class and if he can offset the pressure and wildness of Silva, he should have a win. Silva is too wild with his striking to not absorb a few shots before he gets taken to the ground. Although Silva has a good ground game, it just isn’t at the level of Borg, who can grapple with the best of them.
Take the Shot: Ray Borg via Unanimous Decision
Mario Bautista vs. Jin Soo Son (BW)
The quick replacement against Cory Sandhagen went down as a first-round submission loss for Mario Bautista (6-1, 0-1 UFC) but giving up your UFC debut to someone seen by many as a future champion isn’t the worst loss. Bautista trains out of the prestigious MMA Lab in Phoenix, Arizona and utilizes aggressive striking and a wrestling base he started the sport with. Bautista is dangerous when pressuring and has power as well as extremely skilled submissions, but has issues when put on his back foot.
Jin Soo Son (9-3, 0-1 UFC) will be making his sophomore appearance after a loss to Petr Yan ten months ago. The Korean Zombie disciple has the same iron chin and willingness to throw down, which he did with Yan. Son fights with the usual Korean brawler style, taking shots, but dishing out quite a few. He has a powerful jab and always goes in with a war in mind. His ground game is okay, but I see his best work being in his finishing ability.
With both fighters losing their debuts to some of the best the Bantamweights have to offer, they both have some good experience on their hands. However, Son did play out all but his last fight on the regional scene and has not had the most elite fights, although he will be a sure fan favorite. If Bautista gets his pressure going, this should be his fight. He has three inches in height and reach and could easily use his power against the defensive-lacking Son. The wrestling and submission ability I am also giving to Bautista, as he has elite submissions and could take away a lot of the closeness on the feet with a dominant ground performance. I am seeing a real FOTN contender here.
Take the Shot: Mario Bautista via Unanimous Decision
Domingo Pilarte vs. Felipe Colares (BW)
Domingo Pilarte (8-1) will make his UFC debut after a win on the Contender Series over Vince Morales almost a year ago. In that fight, the 6’0 Bantamweight took a lot of first-round damage before choking out Morales. “Son of Fire” has four wins by submission and three coming in by armbar, where he poses a legitimate threat. His striking is threatening and powerful, but he has trouble with his defense and properly utilizing his range.
The UFC debut of Felipe Colares (8-1, 0-1 UFC) went south quick against Geraldo de Freitas. Colares utilizes a lot of kicks in an effort to get the fight to the ground, but he can be easily outstruck. He is mainly a grappler and is dangerous from the back, but doesn’t offer any real threats on the feet aside from the kicks. The more natural Bantamweight in Colares will give up four inches in height and five in reach.
On the feet, this is easily Pilarte. His range and power will be able to easily dominate Colares, who naturally floats around the outside with kicks looking for a shot. If Colares does get the fight to the ground, it isn’t a gimme either. Pilarte is dangerous off his back and can throw in any sort of submission, along with being sound enough defensively to avoid his own demise by choke. I see this fight playing out on the feet, with the rangy Pilarte piecing up the Brazilian until he closes the show.
Take the Shot: Domingo Pilarte via Round 2 Knockout
This week, we are entirely on ESPN in our glorious summer stretch. Stay tuned for the main card tomorrow!