I’m not totally sure how to take the Fight Pass prelims this weekend. The most promising prospect on this portion of the card is on the verge of being cut while the headliner features a pair off youngsters whose ceiling appears to be relatively low. Then again, it is admittedly difficult to gauge just how far any of these fighters can go based on what we have seen of them, given none of them have more than two UFC contests under their belt. Maybe you should take these predictions with a grain of salt… that is if you don’t already do that.
The Fight Pass prelims begin at 7:00 PM ET/4:00 PM PT on Saturday.
Alex Morono (13-3) vs. Niko Price (9-0), Welterweight
Morono and Price both made their way into the UFC as short-notice injury replacements only to make good on their opportunity against more established veterans. Now they collide after Sheldon Westcott pulled up lame, opening the door for Price to pick up his second UFC win in just over a month’s time.
Morono is a bit of a mystery in that he finds a way to continually win despite lacking any plus physical skills. You’d think he’d make up for a lack of power in his striking by being a technical savant, but that isn’t the case either. Is he a decent combination striker? Well… he can put combinations together. What Morono is, is aggressive with few being able to match his desire to win, allowing him to take decisions from Kyle Noke and James Moontasri. He’ll throw high-risk strikes and is pugnacious looking for submissions, though he is limited in that field by his lack of wrestling.
Price is also an uber-aggressive fighter himself, though Price’s aggression manifests itself in different ways. It isn’t that he’s afraid to throw leather as he’s perfectly content to do so if that is what is offered to him. In fact, Price is a film fanatic who believes enough in his skill set that he’s willing to take the fight wherever he believes his opponent is weakest. His debut victory over Brandon Thatch is a perfect example. Thatch came into the contest with three consecutive submission losses. What did Price do? Take the fight to the ground at every opportunity and fish for choke after choke until he was able to elicit a tap.
I’m not on the bandwagon of either fighter as they both have some clear athletic limitations. However, I believe Morono’s impediments are far more obvious. Morono has yet to face an opponent who will stay up in his face either, something I see him having problems with. Price assuredly will do so. I’m sure it will be sloppy at times, but I also expect both to leave it all in the cage which usually produces entertaining results. Price via submission of RD2
Khalil Rountree (4-2) vs. Daniel Jolly (5-1), Light Heavyweight
The loser of this contest will be cut for sure as Rountree has already dropped two contests in non-competitive fashion while Jolly appears to be nothing more than an enhancement talent. Make no mistake that the UFC would much rather see Rountree emerge the victor.
Rountree was on the radar of MMA scouts long before he made his appearance on TUF last year. His kicks have gotten the most attention as he has ripped into his opponent’s bodies with vicious round kicks, but that is selling his punching power short. He can put together lethal combinations with his fists, but too often goes for the kill recklessly and ends up expending most of his energy early. By that point he’s a sitting duck as his opponents have been aware of his grappling and wrestling deficiencies and immediately look to take the youngster to the ground.
Whether or not Jolly will be able to take advantage of Rountree’s shortcomings is up for debate. A short-notice injury replacement back in August 2015, Jolly hasn’t stepped in the cage since that loss to Misha Cirkunov. In terms of his physical strengths, he’s similar to Rountree, but a step below in his natural abilities. However, he’s far more developed in his wrestling and grappling. Look for Jolly to try and make it a dirty contest by getting Rountree into the clinch, wearing him down, and looking for takedowns.
Physically, Rountree should be the easy favorite despite being a bit undersized for 205. But I don’t like the way the pieces of his game fit together nor do I like his fight IQ. Despite that, I’m sticking with my initial instinct to pick the youngster to earn his first UFC win. Jolly didn’t show much in his debut and though I can see him outpointing Rountree, I don’t see him finishing him. At some point, Rountree will land a killshot on the Texan. Rountree via KO of RD1
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