The Line Up
Featherweight Godofredo Castro vs. Dashon Johnson
Welterweight Igor Araújo vs. George Sullivan
Lightweight Francisco Trinaldo vs. Leandro Silva
Welterweight Paulo Thiago vs. Sean Spencer
Bantamweight Rani Yahya vs. Johnny Bedford
Dashon Johnson +135
Godofredo Pepey -165
George Sullivan +145
Igor Araujo -175
Francisco Trinaldo -180
Leandro Silva +150
Paulo Thiago +150
Sean Spencer -180
Johnny Bedford -165
Rani Yahya +135
Imagine dropping your old wallet carrying nothing but dust and insect feces on the way to your own garage sale, and only then might you have some idea. Only now do I realize how incredibly disrespectful that sounds to the fighters, but we’re only talking optics. Out of ten fighters, four don’t have wikipedia pages. Not a single undercard bout involves a fighter currently in the UFC’s top 15 rankings. So yea…none of the champs of each respective division has this undercard on their radars.
Godofredo Pepey has been a revelation in spots. Yes, he’s 2-3 in the UFC , and was finished in his last two defeats against Sam Sicilia, and Felipe Arantes. But he’s much better than your average TUF:Brazil cast member, and likely has a reasonable career with the UFC when all is said and done so like as they don’t give him ranked fighters. At the end of the day, that’s all you can reasonably ask for from the international TUF squad. And his last performance ended up on the flying knee KO highlight reel, which is never not a fantastic place to be. It’s not classic looking like Anderson Silva on Carlos Newton, nor is it the emphatic arc Spencer Fisher scored on Matt Wiman, but it’s a solid knee tip to the grill with the full headlights out and everything.
I’d expect another win for Pepey here, though with perhaps less panache. As Zane Simon reminded us, Dashon’s then undefeated record was one of the most hallow in MMA, taking out a collective group of opponents with a combined 13-39 record. To be fair to Dashon, he has a pretty good grasp of switching from striking to wrestling. The problem is that he doesn’t have a strong technical grasp of either: his boxing can be very erratic, and wild, and he looks to power through his opponents when taking them down over ensuring something more deliberate. Pepey is a solid well rounded mixed martial artist who can likely work some submission magic off the scrambles so expect something similar to Johnson’s last bout against Matthews.
George Sullivan is an interesting fighter. I didn’t expect him to beat Rhodes, but then Rhodes went around and lost to Robert Whittaker and now I don’t know what to think. The matchup is technically good for him, as Sullivan is tall rangy striker who looks for that straight right wherever and however he can land it while taking a no nonsense approach to the ground: avoid it at all costs. This is tricky because Araujo is a ground specialist, and even though his takedowns don’t always look pretty when he’s grabbing ankles like a six year old being dragged into the dentist office, once his opponent is down, he’s often successful with those submissions. At those odds, take a flyer on Sullivan. Araujo hasn’t submitted anyone in the UFC even though he’s spent plenty of time on the ground, but unlike his last two opponents he can’t afford to waste time on the feet. Sullivan is constantly throwing while maintaining a good defensive wrestling base. I’m not confident here, but it’s worth a shot.
I never realized how long Trinaldo had been in the UFC. Even though he’s only been here since 2012, he’s 4-3, which is a solid number of fights. His performances have been sort of hot and cold. He’s facing off against Leandro “Buscape” Silva. You may remember that name Buscape from Luiz Buscape (no association), the lightweight Pride fighter who had some decent scraps with some big names (currently on a very impressive 5 fight win streak by the way). Or you may remember him from the one fight he had in the UFC last June. Silva fights a lot like Firmino, a pure top control scrapper who is most comfortable on the ground attempting whatever he can in the asphyxiation department. If his odds were higher, I’d like him as a bet, but Trinaldo is more well rounded, and not a fighter I see being pressured against the cage long enough to lose the battle of attrition.
For Paulo Thiago, there’s not much to say. With a 5-7 UFC record, and only two wins since 2010, his stay with the UFC has largely run its course, and a reminder that great wins don’t beget great fighters. While he’ll always be remembered for his Josh Koscheck KO, it’s clear by now that his lack of athleticism doomed him against the upper echelon. When you watch him now, he’s slowed down considerably. There’s no urgency in his game, and no real ‘spirit’ when involved in exchanges. I can hardly recall his last bout. Meanwhile, I can recall everything about Sean Spencer’s last bout with Alex Garcia. A fight anything like that will favor Spencer all day, every day. And that’s what I predict.
Rani Yahya is an undeniable talent. On the ground at least. But he is potentially a good example of what happens when you start to become lazy. Scattered rumors sometimes tell the story of a fighter who doesn’t train like he should, which if true, would speak to Yahya’s sometimes erratic performances. However, with the exception of Niinimaki, Rani has always only lost to the elite. Bedford is not elite, so that is a fantastic value bet. Bedford’s also a big kid, with raw power, so this isn’t a foregone conclusion, but once it hits the ground Rani is as good as it gets when it comes to chaining submission attempts against inferior opposition.
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