Diggin’ Deep on UFC: Blaydes vs. Lewis – Nine prelim bouts? Quantity doesn’t mean quality

As of now, there are nine – nine! – preliminary contests for UFC Vegas 19. There is time for a contest to fall out…

By: Dayne Fox | 3 years ago
Diggin’ Deep on UFC: Blaydes vs. Lewis – Nine prelim bouts? Quantity doesn’t mean quality
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As of now, there are nine – nine! – preliminary contests for UFC Vegas 19. There is time for a contest to fall out as it has become commonplace for one or two fights to fall out in the final days heading into events. Hell, it isn’t even that unusual for a fight to fall out after weigh-ins anymore. That’s why they’ve been scheduling cards to have a large number of fights because they expect them to have injury or illness pick away at amount of contests like vultures. That’s the reasoning behind the bloated card. What’s on the prelims is about as diverse of a group as you’ll find on prelims, from a former UFC title challenger to several newcomers, five to be exact. However, the former title challenger is well past his prime and nobody is predicting future title contender for any of the newcomers. That could mean nothing as there wasn’t a lot of buzz behind the debuts of the likes of Stipe Miocic and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Regardless, quantity doesn’t mean quality, meaning few would blame you if you waited until the main card.

  • It’s a shame it took Danny Chavez so long to make his way into the UFC, though he did make the most of it with an impressive debut this past summer. At 33, he got started in the UFC later than most other featherweights and smaller weight classes tend to have a shorter shelf life than the heavier divisions. To his credit, he is a technical striker who makes every strike count. Chavez doesn’t overwhelm with volume, but that’s why he makes every strike count, particularly his kicks. He does struggle when he can’t control the pace, faltering when his opponent can make the fight an ugly brawl. That’s music to the ears of Jared Gordon, who has never been the prettiest belle at the ball. He pushes a high energy style that’s hellbent on breaking his opponent’s will with constant pressure and takedowns. It has gotten him into trouble before, but only against the better athletes in the division. Worth noting is Gordon’s return to featherweight as he has had issues making the weight in the past. He did so comfortably in his last contest, but he was able to use a lot of lay-and-prey to secure the victory. If Chavez can keep the fight standing, the energy it takes to sustain his preferred pressure combined with the weight cut might be too much. Chavez’s wrestling has looked good, but it hasn’t been tested the way Gordon will test it. Kudos to the matchmakers on this one, but I’m leaning towards the more established Gordon. Gordon via decision
  • Drakkar Klose will never be a fan favorite. Not only is his pressuring style on the boring side – and severely lacking in finishes – he can be unlikeable when calling out his opponent for not fighting the style of fight he wants to fight. Regardless, Klose’s durability usually allows him to effectively close the distance and suffocate his opposition against the cage. The grueling style of fight tends to drain energy levels in a hurry, allowing Klose to finish strong down the stretch. Of course, that strategy might prove to be more difficult to pull off against the spindly Luis Pena. At 6’3” with a 75” reach, Pena is the proud owner of one of the longest frames in the division. Unfortunately for Pena, he has yet to efficiently utilize that frame to the fullest extent. He has been working on establishing a jab, but it’s been an inconsistent endeavor. Pena’s grappling has been more effective as he effectively manages to entangle opponents in his limbs, but he’s also too willing to operate off his back for his own good to the extent that he doesn’t mind giving up takedowns. Klose hasn’t been particularly effective with his takedown attempts, but he is a willing wrestler. Pena will probably have more flashy moments, but Klose’s steady performance should be enough in the end. Klose via decision
  • It’s been a long, winding road for Eddie Wineland. Beginning his professional career at the age of 18 in 2003, being crowned the WEC bantamweight champion at 21, and fighting for the UFC title a couple of years after the UFC absorbed the WEC, it isn’t short on accomplishments. However, he’s coming very close to the end of the line. Though his frenetic footwork is still his most defining characteristic, Wineland has lost some of the speed and quickness that made his unorthodox approach successful. There are still fights out there for Wineland to win, but he can’t be fighting top notch athletes anymore. John Castaneda represents a sound test to find out exactly where the appropriate level of competition for Wineland stands. Though he was clearly outclassed in his UFC debut by Nathaniel Wood, Castaneda put up a spirited fight, displaying his scrappy nature. Castaneda might be the better athlete than Wineland at this point, but he doesn’t possess the savvy of Wineland. The one area where Castaneda would likely have his biggest advantage, the grappling, will be difficult to exploit as Wineland’s strategy of keeping his hands low contributes to his excellent takedown defense. This is a very winnable fight for Castaneda, but his lack of power has me siding with Wineland. Wineland via decision
  • If you’re looking for an example of perseverance, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better example than Julian Erosa. Though he has already been let go by the UFC on two previous occasions, he hasn’t let up in the least and is coming off the biggest win of his career, securing a submission of Sean Woodson after being called to the UFC for a third time on short notice. At 6’1” with a 74” reach, he’s a massive featherweight. Unfortunately, he has never figured out how to effectively keep his opposition from entering his range and delivering their share of offense. Make no mistake, Nate Landwehr wouldn’t care how potent Erosa’s jab is or isn’t; he’s crashing his way into the pocket to look for haymakers or takedowns. Landwehr isn’t as clean or diverse of a striker as Erosa, but he does have more natural power and has generally proven to be durable throughout his career. Of course, Landwehr is even worse defensively than Erosa, partially why he’s so likeable to the general fight audience. This is a tough one to call, but I’ll go with Landwehr as he has his wrestling to fall back on… if he chooses to use it. Landwehr via TKO of RD2
  • After an impressive appearance on DWCS, Rafael Alves is making his official UFC debut against a fellow newcomer in Pat Sabatini. Both are on the older end of the scale for prospects to be making their debuts – both are 30 – but not so old that they can’t hang around for a while and make an impact. Given the audience DWCS tends to receive, Alves is the more recognizable product. Showing off his array of powerful kicks, he battered the body and legs of Alejandro Flores before latching onto his neck and submitting him with a guillotine. It was hard to find significant holes in his performance. However, on the regional scene, he has struggled with pressure and takedowns. Those are both areas Sabatini has shown a penchant for. While Sabatini isn’t nearly as explosive as Alves, he’s a technical striker and takedown artist that tends to find a way to accomplish what it is he’s trying to do. There usually isn’t a lot of flash to his attack, but it tends to result in a finish. This is going to be an overlooked contest, but it has a high probability to be one of the more entertaining contests on the evening. It’s a tough call, but I prefer the more consistent approach of Sabatini over Alves’ penchant for sudden finishes. Sabatini via submission of RD3
  • I won’t deny the physical gifts of Casey O’Neil. A strong athlete who is still growing into her frame – she is only 23 – O’Neil is also being brought up to the big stage far too soon for her own good, having turned pro less than two years ago. Like any athlete with the requisite confidence to succeed, she would completely disagree with me, but this story has been played out many times before with very few exceptions. O’Neil has shown a little bit in every area across the board, but it’s hard to get a feel for where her true wheelhouse resides as she’s willing to allow her opposition to dictate where the fight takes place. If that continues to be the case, this fight will take place almost exclusively on the feet as Shana Dobson hasn’t expanded her skill set too much beyond her striking. Sure, she’s become a better defensive wrestler and grappler, but her boxing remains her only true threat offensively. Dobson proved her toughness and resilience in her upset win over Mariya Agapova, meaning she can exploit O’Neal should the youngster leave a big enough hole for her to drive through. I don’t feel good picking either competitor, but I’ll go with O’Neil due to her having a higher propensity for major improvement at this stage. O’Neal via decision
  • It’s easy to forget Chas Skelly once held the UFC record for fewest amount of time between victories in the modern era given he hasn’t been the busiest fighter in recent years. Injuries will do that. It leaves a lot of questions as to how much the 35-year old has left in the tank. Never much of a striker, it has always been about the wrestling and grappling for Skelly. While he has found more than his share of success with that strategy – Skelly has a deep arsenal of chokes and goes after them with extreme aggression – he tends to work himself to exhaustion, leading to him fighting to simply survive by the final round should the fight go the distance. That’s probably the best chance of victory Jamall Emmers has. A solid wrestler himself, Emmers lanky frame has allowed him to establish a solid jab most of the time, making it difficult for opposition to get in on his hips for takedowns. Even if Skelly is able to get inside his range, Emmers isn’t easy to take down anyway. Skelly undoubtedly will have the advantage on the mat and will make a hard attempt to get it to the mat early. I’m sure he’ll be able to get a takedown or two early on and threaten Emmers, but I think the more athletic Emmers can survive and cruise after a rough opening round. Emmers via decision
  • No doubt this is the last chance for Aiemann Zahabi to prove he belongs in the UFC. Not that many care at this point, but it’s hard to believe the younger brother of famed trainer Firas Zahabi made it to the organization on his merits as opposed to his last name. it’s no surprise Zahabi is technically sound with a sturdy jab – trademarks of all the fighters Firas trains – but he’s lacking on the power and athleticism to be more than a low-level gatekeeper. He stands a strong chance of overcoming newcomer Drako Rodriguez, another DWCS alumni who is getting his opportunity on the roster sooner than is ideal. Rodriguez shows some very impressive grappling chops without any major weaknesses of note. That doesn’t mean someone with the discipline of Zahabi isn’t capable of exposing his lack of polish in his wrestling or striking defense, but he’ll have a clear advantage in speed and power, which should make up for the mistakes he’s likely to make… provided they aren’t egregious. Rodriguez via decision
  • Credit to Jared Vanderaa, the big man recognizes the value of a good callout. Even before he was a member of the UFC roster – after his win on DWCS — he called out Sergey Spivak and got his wish when Uncle Dana granted him a contract. Spivak has been a target for many heavyweights following his upset win over Tai Tuivasa last year as it boosted his profile beyond what most believed his abilities warranted. What many of those heavyweights don’t realize is Spivak has improved since that time. Always a strong submission specialist – for heavyweight — with a solid clinch, the native of Moldova has been developing a jab, as it was his primary weapon in his most recent contest against Carlos Felipe. Of course, Felipe is on the short side for heavyweight and Vanderaa already appears to be one of the biggest members of the roster. Vanderaa has a hell of a chin – he’s never been stopped by strikes — and throws a lot of low kicks, but he is also slow with terrible defense. Vanderaa could very well march Spivak down and finish him off with whis heavy hands, but given Vanderaa’s questionable grappling skills, a submission win from Spivak appears to be more likely. Spivak via submission of RD2
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About the author
Dayne Fox
Dayne Fox

Dayne Fox is a contributing writer and analyst for Bloody Elbow. He has been writing about combat sports since 2013 and a member of Bloody Elbow since 2016. Dayne primarily contributes opinion pieces and event coverage. Dayne’s specialties are putting together the preview articles for all the UFC events and post-fight analysis. Outside of writing on combat sports, Dayne works in the purchasing department of a construction company, formerly working as an analyst. He is also a proud husband and father. In what spare time he can find, he enjoys strategy games and is a movie enthusiast. He is based in Utah.

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