Yair Rodriguez vs. BJ Penn
In fact, his wrestling is going to be a big tool here. He finds himself on a two-fight win streak, which is huge for a division as shallow as flyweight. This fight is a tactical chess match, but Moraga should pull it out in an entertaining prelim headliner.
On late notice, Oleksiy Oliynik gets the call to fill in for a heavyweight bout, as he steps in for Damian Grabowski to take on Viktor Pesta. Oliynik is a submission wrestler who has some underrated KO power in his hands. He is a longtime veteran as well, holding a distinct experience advantage over Pesta.
As for Pesta, he is also a ground fighter first, preferring to wrestle from top position. He is in the UFC and battling for his roster spot here, as a loss would likely send him walking from the company. Up a weight class and on late notice, Alex White is looking to be successful in the lightweight division when he takes on the large and athletic Tony Martin. He is in the UFC, as the ground fighter has both won and lost twice by submission. He will want to get on top of White.
This is a tough fight to call, but I am confident that the skills and tools possessed by Martin are too much for White, as Tony scores another UFC victory here. The heavyweights are set to take action next, as UFC vet Walt Harris looks to get back into the win column against Chase Sherman, who makes his sophomore effort with the company. Harris is a big, athletic striker who has failed to find consistency in the UFC.
His only win in the company comes against disgraced heavyweight Cody East, but that singular win comes with four losses. Similarly, Sherman is a striker with big power in his hands. This fight comes down to who will land first, and that man will be Harris, who finally scores his second UFC win. The ladies will fight in the next bout, as hometown fighter Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger takes on fellow strawweight Nina Ansaroff.
She is solid all around, but is not a major threat in one specific area that you need to watch out for. Ansaroff is much better than her record indicates, but she is also in the UFC and fighting to keep her spot.
I think that her takedowns and top control are key here. Ansaroff closes the distance, grounds Lybarger and shows off her skills on the ground, scoring an important win for herself. UFC debutants are set to square off in the next bout, as Devin Powell comes over from the east coast to take on late replacement Drakkar Klose.
Looking for a Fight. That said, most of his competition thus far has been average-to-below-average east coast opposition, so this is a big step up for him. Four of his six wins come via knockout, which means he will want to keep Powell upright. Light heavyweights will do battle in the next offering, as Joachim Christensen looks to erase the memories of a UFC debut loss when he takes on former heavyweight from Serbia Bojan Mihajlovic.
Christensen is a well-rounded European who established himself as a threat on the Euro regional scene. He debuted with the UFC in his last fight, but was rebuked by Frank Waisten via submission, sending him back to the drawing board. As for Mihajlovic, he was a pound heavyweight who has wisely decided to cut the excess weight and try his hand at a weight division more his size.
He is a powerful striker, so expect him to want to brawl with Christensen, even though he was knocked out by Francis Ngannou in his UFC debut. He bests the Serb. Asker is a ground fighter who has strong overseas experience. The Frenchman can strike a bit too, but we saw he was finished on the feet in his UFC debut against Jared Cannonier overseas.
He goes up against Smoliakov, who has finishes in all of his wins, albeit against low levels of competiion in Russia. Unfortunately those days are long behind him and you have to go back to November to find his last victory. His last outing, which was a third meeting with Frankie Edgar, was a particularly poor showing in which he was defeated by TKO. Even though he is 38 years old, Penn is still a dangerous fighter, he has solid boxing and incredible jiu-jitsu and he has trained for this fight with his old coach Jason Parillo so there is hope that we will see a rejuvenated BJ Penn this time around.
As for Rodriguez, he has attracted a lot of hype in his short career but it is easy to see why. He has already amassed a record in the UFC and has a flashy style that consists of various flying, jumping and spinning techniques such as the jumping switch kick to the head that knocked out Andre Fili.
He likes to stay on the outside and keep range with his kicks, his boxing is improving but he is still not comfortable in the pocket. On the ground he has an active guard and likes to create scrambles. His biggest asset is his athleticism, he moves around the cage with incredible speed and fluidity and he can keep a good pace for 25 minutes.
This will be an uphill task for Penn to say the least, he will need to close the distance on the rangey Rodriguez who will be able to keep up a fast pace with plenty of kicks. Trying to get close enough to Rodriguez to land punches or shoot for a takedown is going to wear down the ageing Penn and Rodriguez will get a finish late in the fight.
Joe Lauzon v Marcin Held. These two fighters have many similarities but also some key differences which will decide the fight.
Both of them are aggressive submission hunters; Held is a leg lock specialist and has no qualms about rolling to his back to grab a leg and he is tenacious once he gets a hold of one, while Lauzon has the most post fight bonuses in UFC history including six Submission of the Night honours. This aggressive grappling style leads to another trait they both share, suspect cardio.
Both men can exhaust themselves early in a fight looking to get the finish and leave themselves exposed later in the fight. One area in which they clearly differ is their age, with Lauzon being eight years older. Despite having been in many wars throughout his career, Lauzon has been performing well in recent fights, and despite only being 24 years of age, Marcin Held has a wealth of experience with 27 MMA fights already behind him. The main difference between these two men and the thing which will decide the fight is striking, and more specifically punching power.
Lauzon throws hard punches in the pocket and has surprising hand speed, as shown by his quick finish of Diego Sanchez.