We’re diggin’ deep again, with a bigger shovel this time around!
For the most, the UFC sneaks a contest of high importance into the preliminary contests. This isn’t one of those times. Not saying these contests are crap, but there is a distinct delineation between these fights and the ones placed towards the end of the event. Regardless, there are several names most MMA fans recognize and have an affinity for. Kevin Holland. Tim Means. Nasrat Haqparast. There’s a few whom fight fans don’t have enough information to decide if they give a damn about. Justin Jaynes. Youssef Zalal. Irwin Rivera. There isn’t a specific fight that’s overly appetizing, but it’s very possible to not just become full off these prelims, but also satisfied.
The prelims begin on ESPN+ at 6:00 PM ET/3:00 PM PT on Saturday.
- Kevin Holland has earned a reputation as a fighter who lives up to the anytime, anywhere moniker. Notice I say he’s earned it, as he was looking to fight a new opponent – Ed Herman – just minutes after his contest with Trevin Giles fell out last weekend. Rather than sit back when that couldn’t be put together, he insisted on another fight this weekend. Thus, he’s getting another chance at a win bonus against Joaquin Buckley… who did fight last weekend. Holland is a skilled athlete with incredible resilience and toughness. However, he tends to shoot himself in the foot with bonehead mistakes. Buckley’s only real advantage will be his power – he can put an opponent out with one punch, Holland can’t – but Holland has never been KO’d in his amateur or professional career. Even if Holland fights a stupid fight, Buckley has a tall task ahead of him. Holland via decision
- There was a time when the name of Tim Means evoked feelings of euphoria from MMA faithful. A tireless volume striker capable of walking through hellfire without capitulating to his opponent’s attack, Father Time has been showing strong signs of his effects on the longtime veteran. Means can still put together impressive stretches of offense. He simply can’t absorb the same amount of damage he did in the past. In fact, he can only absorb a fraction of what he once did. Nonetheless, the porous defense of Laureano Staropoli gives significant hope to the possibility of Means unleashing a barrage of elbows and knees to put away the young Argentinian. It isn’t that Staropoli is fragile; it’s that Means is that violent. Regardless, Staropoli throws his own flashy brand of offense at a high rate. It isn’t just youth that I’m favoring; it’s speed and durability that has me sold this is Staropoli’s fight to lose. Staropoli via TKO of RD2
- At the beginning of 2020 – when we were all full of hope that it would be a good year – many were predicting Nasrat Haqparast would emerge as a future contender in the crowded lightweight division. It only took Drew Dober 70 seconds to dash those thoughts, delivering a finish brutal enough that it’s fair to question if there will be any long-term psychological ramifications. Will he be committed to his regular pressure or will he become tentative? He attempts to rebound against newcomer Alex Munoz, a Team Alpha Male product who is best known for dashing Nick Newell’s UFC dreams. Munoz employs a hit-and-run striking strategy that mixes his shots to the body and head equally with the occasional takedown. Haqparast has rock solid takedown defense and puts together combinations fluidly. It should be enough for him to get back on track… provided his head is on straight. Haqparast via decision
- Andrew Sanchez is a bit of a conundrum. A talented grappler and improving volume striker, the former TUF winner has been unable to breakthrough beyond being a middling middleweight despite possessing the skill set to be more. The biggest problem for him is energy management/conditioning as he tends to spend the final frame of every contest merely trying to survive rather than attempting to win the round. He’ll look to hold off Wellington Turman, a well-conditioned Brazilian grappler. Wellington is dogged in his attempts to get the fight to the mat, but still has a long way to go for his takedowns to be labeled anywhere near consistent. The biggest question is whether he’s shored up his striking enough to hang with Sanchez over the first two rounds. It’s one of the more difficult contests to predict on the card, but I’ll say Sanchez does enough in the first two rounds to take a decision. Sanchez via decision
- In the process of making an explosive UFC debut – and picking up an extra $50K – Justin Jaynes broke a lot of hearts when he demolished fan favorite Frank Camacho in less than a minute. It also left more questions than answers as such a short contest leaves little to pick apart. The regional scene indicates Jaynes is a durable powerhouse, securing most of his wins via KO/TKO and never having been finished himself despite almost always being the smaller man in the contest. However, he might be the bigger man for the first time, cutting down to 145 to face Gavin Tucker. Tucker is a creative striker who needs his wrestling game working to execute his game plan. Otherwise, he runs out of ideas in a hurry. Jaynes isn’t likely to succumb to Tucker’s takedowns. I’m not confident saying when Jaynes will finish off Tucker, but I feel confident in saying it will happen. Jaynes via TKO of RD2
- Making his third appearance of this truncated year, Youssef Zalal has made himself a prospect keep an eye on in his two UFC appearances. Utilizing his wrestling in his debut against Austin Lingo, Zalal relied on his striking arsenal in his sophomore appearance against Jordan Griffin, showing an intelligence and well-roundedness that belies his youth. He’ll welcome DWCS alum Peter Barrett into the Octagon. Barrett’s attack is reminiscent of what was in vogue a decade ago, pushing forward while working for takedowns against the fence. He’s tough as nails and will keep coming if he isn’t put away early, but he has been put away early on multiple occasions. Barrett likely won’t make it easy, but expect Zalal to use his length to piece him up on the outside, mix in some takedowns, and take a clear cut decision. Zalal via decision
- If you’re the type who has to watch every single UFC contest – first of all, you’re insane – you certainly remember Irwin Rivera’s UFC debut in May. The Mexican native may have lost a clear decision to Giga Chikadze, but wasn’t scared to take some major risks and showed a hell of a chin, absorbing all that his much larger opponent had to throw at him. It wasn’t just spinning crap Rivera threw either, showing flashes of a fundamentally grounded attack. He’ll want to avoid a grappling contest with newcomer Ali Al Qaisi. The signing of the Jordanian surprised many as he wasn’t on the radar of many as a potential prospect. While most fighters will take a guillotine choke if presented to them, Al Qaisi actively seeks out his opponent’s neck. Aside from that, there isn’t much that stands out about him. Rivera should find success against someone closer to his size. Rivera via TKO of RD2
About the author