UFC 170: Full preliminary card preview and prognostications

Alexis Davis (15-5) vs. Jessica Eye (10-1) Women's Bantamweight Jessica Eye has been in the news lately for more than stories about her upcoming…

By: David Castillo | 9 years ago
UFC 170: Full preliminary card preview and prognostications
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Alexis Davis (15-5) vs. Jessica Eye (10-1) Women’s Bantamweight

Jessica Eye has been in the news lately for more than stories about her upcoming bout. I don’t have much to add to that since this is not an op-ed about the failure of the athletic commissions. Instead we’re here to talk about her ability to punch faces, and kick livers. And to that end, here we go.

First thing’s first: you should be pumped for this fight, whether you’re into female MMA or not. Both women are talented, and tough. Whether or not the original decision was fair to Eye, the bout nonetheless highlighted her strengths. She pumps the jab better than most UFC champions, and has excellent movement to compliment her boxing.

Another thing that’s pleasing about Eye to the eye (ho ho) is what she does with the clinch. For a lot of fighters, the clinch is the token pit stop; a place to refuel. For Eye, the clinch is a time to strike, which you don’t see that often. She actively pursues the clinch to land knees, punches, and elbows in tight. It’s a very effective way of dictating the pace of the bout and she does it well.

I don’t think she deserved that decision over Kaufman, but I didn’t think it was a robbery per se. She did, like she’s always done, a great job of moving in, out, and away while sticking Sarah with her left jab.

Davis isn’t that far removed from her own stand out performance. Before the fight I thought she was gonna get smashed by Liz Carmouche. Instead she put the pressure on Carmouche and stuck to a brilliant gameplan that involved not getting knocked out and pistol whipping Liz’ legs with kicks.

I continue to underestimate Davis, and I’m gonna underestimate her again. She’s a fantastic fighter, and one of the more well rounded women in MMA. However, I think Eye’s speed will dominate. Davis still doesn’t move her head much and Jessica takes a very measured approach to the way she lands punches and pursues offense. She’s not a power puncher who will gas after Davis withstands the kitchen sink thrown at her.

Moreover, Davis doesn’t have the power that Kaufman has to find success. When Eye would stop punching, and Kaufman would come forward with big right hands, Jessica would back straight up. She got punished for it as a result, but Davis doesn’t have that ability. Because of that I think she comfortably dominates on the feet.

Prediction: Jessica Eye by Decision.

Raphael Assuncao (21-4) vs. Pedro Munhoz (10-0 ) Bantamweight

Assuncao, long time veteran of Zuffa’s WEC promotion (for my money, no three letters inspire fond MMA memories than those three), has experienced a marginal renaissance. In 2011 he suffered a brutal first round knockout loss to Erik Koch at UFC 128. He was then 1-3 in his last four. He’s 5-0 since then and coming off a big win over an ever-improving T.J. Dillashaw.

His opponent is the 27 year old Brazilian product from Kings MMA. He’s been doing most of his face punching at the Resurrection Fighting Alliance. One of his last two wins is worth nothing: this one over Zuffa veteran Jeff Curran.

Chances are, casual fans see this bout as a gimme for Assuncao, who is on the verge of a title shot (technically). Then again, real chances are no one knows who Raphael Assuncao is anyway, and what champion he’d be fighting, but let’s ignore that for a second.

This nonexistent casual fan would be wrong. Munhoz is a strong fighter who pretty much no one in the division would be wise to take lightly. Raw athleticism can take fighters far in this game, but raw athleticism combined with actual skill and technique will take you farther. Munhoz has that.

His movement as as fluid as you’ll see in this sport. He sports a fantastic front kick to the body that seems a bit innocuous at first, but that he throws to establish distance well. He’s not a striker by trade, but he possesses solid raw power in his fists, and sports a particularly short chopping left hook. Where he excels is on the ground, where he prefers high impact submissions. He has a number of wins by guillotine, and isn’t afraid to go for heel hooks either.

This should be a tough fight for Pedro, but it’s one he apparently asked for. Assuncao has cleaned up some of his game over the years. He’s a tough saavy grappler who should be able to keep Munhoz at bay on the ground, if not avoid it altogether.

This is why I’m going with the safe pick. Assuncao chambers his punches well, and does an excellent job of landing his right and then left in combination. I felt like Dillashaw, despite his rawness, might have gotten through Assuncao’s defense but Raphael proved me wrong. If one talented prospect couldn’t rattle Assuncao, I don’t expect a slightly less talented prospect (a term I use loosely, granted, given Pedro’s age) to do the same.

The real challenge for Pedro is how well he’ll do standing. He’s a lot less technical, and not as capable of putting Assuncao on his back, but I would quickly note that it won’t be easy. Pedro pursues his takedowns with gusto, switching from double leg to single leg, and so forth. Expect this one to be fast paced, and no nonsense.

Prediction: Raphael Assuncao by Decision.

Cody Gibson (11-3) vs. Aljamain Sterling (8-0) Bantamweight

I would never consider pumping up these recent undercards and pretend like they’re solid gold, but this fight is a good example of a proper undercard fight. These are two fighters who won’t embarrass themselves that deserve a shot in the spotlight.

Gibson is taking this fight on very very late notice. Sterling was originally slated to fight Lucas Martins. Cody fights out of Team Rhino Elite and has won his last six fights. My colleague, Zane Simon, has compared him to Matt Riddle. This is a mostly fair comparison; it’s just that I don’t think Gibson would take kindly to being compared to a pot smoking UFC also-ran now turned Bellator also-ran.

Nonetheless, I see the resemblance with respect to styles. Gibson, like Riddle, seems to possess a bit more raw talent than your usual blue collar wrestle-boxer. Cody possesses good stiff kicks that he likes to use low, but mostly he does work within the scrambles. Skip to 1:33 of his fight with Chad George, and you get a good idea of what I’m talking about. He doesn’t have good defense, but his defense is efficient. Because that doesn’t actually make sense, let me clarify; I think that he’s durable, and that durability gives observers the illusion of defense.

He’s a big underdog for a good reason. Aljamain is a heck of a talent coming out of one of the more prominent gym these days with Serra-Longo. Patrick Wyman has him at #2 on his Searching for Future Champion’s list, and for good reason.

Try to remain calm as you watch Sterling fight over Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg’s commentary. You’ll be receiving a lot of signals telling your subconscious to accept that Sterling is all athleticism and explosiveness, rather than craft and technique, but Sterling is a brilliant fighter. He’s the kind of fighter who understands through calculation, and observation that the key to effective MMA is how well you exploit the transition. Sterling looks for mount in the middle of his takedowns rather than after.

He’s as well rounded as they come, and he’s a front runner who doesn’t rely on quick starts to win the fight. His kicks in particular are swift, and he has an extensive arsenal at his disposal. His game on the feet, and on the ground compliment one another to produce a very unique fighter.

This is a solid fight for Sterling because he’s facing a poor man’s version of himself, which is how prospects should proceed. However, this is not to say he should take Gibson lightly. Gibson won’t magically transform into a bobo doll like the victim of a Bandura experiment. However, Sterling is simply the better fighter where ever the fight takes place. Expect Sterling to get the fight to the ground quickly where I expect him to dominate with guard passing, and superior positioning.

Prediction: Aljamain Sterling by RNC, round 2.

Zach Makovsky (17-4) vs. Josh Sampo (11-2) Flyweight

Makovsky didn’t get much fanfare when it was reported that he’d be entering the UFC despite once owning Bellator gold. Say what you will about Bellator, but their limited depth only applies to the higher weights; specifically past 170. The lighter weights own a slew of excellent fighters who wouldn’t be pushovers in the UFC. Makovsky is an excellent example of what I mean. He put on a straight up clinic against a fighter many thought would comfortably beat him.

Sampo is another fighter who is much more talented than a KO loss to Will Campuzano would indicate. Ryan Benoit is a solid talent, and Sampo had little trouble taking care of him. The great thing about this fight is that Sampo shares a lot in common with Jorgensen. Sampo prefers top control, except he’s more offensive than Scott when it comes to passing guard and looking for the submission.

This is why I’m picking Makovsky with no questions asked. Both are fundamentally sound on the feet, and this is aided by the fact that they don’t take unnecessary chances. They always make sure the’re not fighting like someone they’re not: Wanderlei Silva, for example. This ensures they don’t take more damage on the feet than they need to.

Nonetheless, look for Makovsky’s sweeps to once again play a factor in the rhythm of this fight. I’d expect as much back and forth as we saw in the Jorgensen fight, but with more sustained pressure from top control. ‘Fun size’ will be the one doing the sustaining.

Prediction: Zach Makovsky by Decision.

Rafaello Oliveira (17-7) vs. Erik Koch (13-3) Lightweight

Koch seemed primed for a spot near Jose Aldo’s side. He was blitzing opponents, and then he ran into Ricardo Lamas. Saying that Lamas flat out destroyed Koch is like saying Jon Jones earned a decision win over Stephan Bonnar; the words just don’t aptly describe what actually happened.

This is a must win fight for him, and now he’s trying to his hand at his old weight at 155. It’ll be interesting to see whether 155 is a good fit for him. It hasn’t been for Oliveira, who started his UFC career in 2009, losing a decent scrap to Nik Lentz that I saw live in his debut. He would go 1-2, get the boot, and then come back in 2011 where he’s now 1-3.

Oliveira is just not good enough in his current UFC role. He’s fighting veterans and prospects, and losing to them all. Koch is certainly still the prospect he once was. The best part of his game is his striking. But he’s not your typical brawler, or even your typical technician. He’s a patient fighter who relies on economy for efficiency. His kicks are never telegraphed, and he picks his spots wisely on the feet with his counter oriented boxing.

His technique will be more than enough on the feet against Oliveira. My only question mark is Oliveira’s wrestling: it’s good enough that I think he can get Koch on the mat. Koch just hasn’t looked confident on the ground lately. I wonder, perhaps idiotically so, just how much his loss to Lamas really affected him. It’s not just about the way he lost…which was as humbling, and as brutal as it gets (it looked like Koch’s eye got caved in)…but when he lost. This is with a title shot lined up, and everything. It was a loss as physical as it was emotional.

Hopefully his head is in the right place because he’s a very talented young fighter, and I believe the superior one between the two.

Prediction: Erik Koch by TKO, round 3.

Ernest Chavez (6-0) vs. Yosdenis Cedeno (9-2) Lightweight

Fighting out of the MMA Masters camp in Florida, Cedeno is a solid prospect (a Cuban at 29 years of age is basically 19 in American years) with a burgeoning reputation. He’s a very fluid fighter who relies on his agility to dart out of range and keep his distance. With his hands sometimes too low, he likes to rely on one shot at a time but this merely describes his boxing. His kicking game is a little different, which ranges from patient to Elvis. His spinning roundhouse kicks are some of the cleanest in the game.

Chavez will need to be wary of backing up too much. Chavez fights out of Total MMA Studios; a camp that sounds more like a place where those really bad actions films that try to feign credibility by having MMA fighters stand around with menacing looks on their face are made.

Chavez is pretty non descript, which I mean in the most political way possible. He’s defensively responsible and has a solid grasp on the wrestling aspect of MMA, possessing exceptional balance and positioning. His striking needs some cleansing however. He has a habit of chasing with the right hand, throwing it more than necessary and not keep his striking varied.

Chavez will want this fight in close, where he can accrue damage in the clinch and potential get takedowns, but Cedeno has the defense to keep that from happening. In addition, Chavez doesn’t have the defense on the feet (he often lunges into the clinch with a winging right hand) to keep from getting hit, and especially by a fighter like Yosdenis who is capable of counter striking.

Prediction: Yosdenis Cedeno by TKO, round 2.

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David Castillo
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