What happened at UFC 241 (aside from an amazing card)? Well sit back, ‘cuz I’m about to break it down.
After all that, the UFC is heading on over to China for a Strawweight title fight. Yes, that’s our third title fight on a fight night card this year… did I mention I love the ESPN era?
Movsar Evloev vs. Zhenhong Lu (FTW)
When this was a prospect match between Movsar Evloev (11-0, 1-0 UFC) and Mike Grundy, I was ridiculously excited. Now it’s a set-up fight for Evloev taking on an unproven and fairly unskilled fighter in Zhenhong Lu (18-6) making his debut. Evloev has incredible striking with amazing movement and fight IQ, along with an elite wrestling game so he can be in advantage wherever the fight goes. I suggest hopping on the Evloev train soon, as he is headed for big things and the poor game of Lu that only offers a few power shots will be easy for him to handle.
Take the Shot: Movsar Evloev via Round 2 Submission
Damir Ismagulov vs. Thiago Moises (LW)
Damir Ismagulov (18-2, 2-0 UFC) is riding a 13-fight winning streak coming into this fight. The power striker has incredible boxing, utilizing accuracy to make every punch count along with good movement to avoid his opponent’s blows. He has been able to lean back on wrestling when he needs it, but has sloppy takedown defense which could be easily taken advantage of.
Thiago Moises (12-3, 1-1 UFC) is coming off a win over Kurt Holobaugh in decisiom, in which he looked solid. Moises has good striking and solid power, but his main skill is in the submissions. Moises was the LFA and RFA champion and he has incredible cardio. He also has five wins in submission and has the ability of looking for a finish when he gets it to the ground.
If this was a standard striker vs. grappler match, I would lean with Ismagulov. He has the volume and movement to piece up Moises easily and avoid his power shots. The issue is that if Moises is able to wrap up Ismagulov, it will be a short show. However, Ismagulov has the pace to tire out Moises and he coukd wrap a decision even with dropping the first, which is where Moises does his best work.
Take the Shot: Damir Ismagulov via Split Decision
Mark De La Rosa vs. Kai Kara-France (FLW)
In an unsuccessful jump to Bantamweight against Alex Perez, Mark De La Rosa (11-2, 2-2 UFC) will be stepping back down to Flyweight to try and pick up some more steam. DLR is a jiu-jitsu expert with the ability to find submissions off of any playing field, especially when he is able to take the back. He has struggled in volume, able to be pieced apart by technique or poor volume, as well as not shooting for takedowns at a regular clip.
Kai Kara-France (19-7, 2-0 UFC) came into the UFC with the reputation of one of the rare power strikers at Flyweight. He has an impressive volume and output, along with the ability to shoot for takedowns when he needs to. The attribute that will best help him in the UFC is his superb takedown defense, thwarting 90% of shots taken against him.
Kai is one of the fighters I have the most faith in on this entire card. His takedown defense leaves him pretty much invulnerable to De La Rosa and his power and pure volume will be able to piece up the lesser fighter at every turn. I am actually surprised he is taking an opponent who isn’t higher, but with a goos showing here he could end up on the Australian PPV.
Take the Shot: Kai Kara-France via Round 3 Knockout
Karol Rosa vs. Lara Procopio (BW)
Double debut numero dos.
Karol Rosa (11-3) has been fighting since 2013 and has a nice record to show for it. She has some nicde grappling, but does the majority of work in striking. Along with four knockouts, she has a nice skill in volume striking. I imagine that will be her forte in the UFC as well, as she doesn’t have much one-shot power or high success against top-notch competitors.
The Shooto Brasil double champ Lara Procopio (6-0) is certainly one of those more-skilled fighters. On top of a nice ground game, she has incredible point striking and a skill at taking the wind out of her opponents’ sails. She doesn’t have much power and I would be inclined to give that advantage to Rosa, but the all-around grappling threat and pure offense of Procopio is a dangerous combination for the Bantamweight division.
Take the Shot: Lara Procopio via Unanimous Decision
Andre Soukhamthath vs. Su Madaerji (BW)
Andre Soukhamthath (13-7, 2-4 UFC) has been sort of a litmus test for whether a fighter can tango in the UFC. He is a solid striker and although never being finished in seven losses is pretty chinny. He has some nice knockouts, most of which have come in forms of unorthodox striking, but has only really found success against low output strikers without a lot of threats or anyone in the ‘jack of all trades’ bracket.
Although a submission defeat against Louis Smolka went poorly for Su Madaerji (9-3, 0-1 UFC) in his UFC debut, he remains a dangerous prospect. He does his best work in his striking with absolutely devastating power and never going the distance in victory. After spending his entire career inside the WLF up until his most recent fight, he amounted 8 wins by KO, 6 of those in the first round. The issue for him has been his ground game, as a taxing grappler can easily destroy his game and finish him without too much difficulty.
The thing that makes Soukhamthath a poor fighter is his fight IQ. In his match with Sean O’Malley, Soukhamthath was entirely unable to take advantage of his opponent’s broken foot and instead continued to try to wrestle. He has poor wrestling and has never been difficult to hit. That’s a nightmare for someone with the power of Su.
Take the Shot: Su Madaerji via Round 2 Knockout
Anthony Hernandez vs. Jun Yong Park (MW)
The UFC debut for Anthony Hernandez (7-1, 0-1 UFC) went south quickly against Markus Perez when he was submitted. The DWCS alum has brutal power, along with amazing guillotine chokes, closing all but one of his wins in the first round. He is an all-out offensive powerhouse who can use those guillotines to defend, as well as being incredibly difficult to stand with on the feet with his raw power.
Jun Yong Park (9-3) is a well-rounded fighter with four KO wins and another three in submission. He likes to lean on his striking, but isn’t afraid to take the fight to the ground when he is outclassed there. I have been impressed with his fight IQ but he has had lapses against higher level fighters. Although Hernandez had a rough start, he had the threat on all levels of his game to finish and I don’t see a single area where Park will be able to take the edge.
Take the Shot: Anthony Hernandez via Round 1 Knockout
Batgerel Danaa vs. Heili Alatang (BW)
Yippee. Our first double debut of the night.
These two fighters were absolutely impossible to fimnd tape on. Batgerel Danaa (6-1) is mainly a striker coming out of the MGL-1 promotion, which I have never heard of. He has three knockouts, but not the most power, even fighting at Featherweight for two fights. He does have a win over UFC Flyweight Kai Kara-France, but aside from that he has only fought low-level competition and lost to fighters with even a semi-decent record. He is still a well rounded fighter with a some decent wrestling, but is lacking the stuff to get him to that next level.
Heili Alateng (12-7) is the more experienced fighter here out of the always fun Road FC show. He has some good knockout power and boasts a high volume, leading me to believe he will take the edge in a striking battle. Although he has quite a few losses to opponents with a winning record, he has demonstrated great growth and is the fighter more live for a finish.
This is a match to stay away from one way or another. Seeing as this will almost certainly play out on the feet, I give Alateng the edge in both experience and power, as well as the better cardio. I think that Alateng does have a suspect chin, but that shouldn’t be a problem as Danaa doesn’t hit as hard as his record may suggest.
Take the Shot: Heili Alateng via Unanimous Decision
This is certainly not a high-profile fight night complete with big names, but what it lacks in that, it makes up for with fighters who may very well be future champions and title contenders, along with a title fight.
Stay tuned for the main card picks tomorrow and be sure to follow on this action, which starts at midnight EST.