Count me as not surprised the UFC is once again going all out on a PPV. The quality of the card seeps down well into the early prelims, featuring a fighter who headlined a PPV in his last fight. Of course, many would say Alex Perez kind of got his title shot by default as Deiveson Figueiredo had beaten pretty much everyone else who might have been worthy of that shot on his climb to claim the championship, so it was kind of by default he stepped in when Cody Garbrandt pulled out. Nonetheless, that’s something that can’t be taken from Perez. There are several other talents in the early prelims that are in the official UFC in Andre Muniz, Miranda Maverick, and Perez’s opponent, Matt Schnell. The early prelims may not have a Fight Night main event, but they sure as hell would qualify as a decent Fight Night main card.
Alex Perez vs. Matt Schnell, Flyweight
It has frequently been mentioned how big and physical Perez is for a flyweight, but he’s going to be the smaller man in his fight with Schnell. Not that Schnell fights like an imposing figure as the lanky flyweight has taken great measures to be defensive minded following a pair of violent KO losses upon his UFC entry. Regardless, Schnell deserves all sorts of credit for evolving into a skilled and technical striker following a rough start to his UFC career, revolving his attack entirely around a stiff jab and lots of movement.
Though his jab has turned into a useful weapon, it isn’t his strongest suit; that would be his grappling. The problem is Schnell’s wrestling hasn’t been up to snuff in the UFC, resulting in his struggles to utilize his fantastic grappling skills. Even though he hasn’t spent a large amount of time on the mat in his UFC run, Schnell has been able to nab two submission victories in that time, both triangle submissions from off his back.
That could be a major cause for concern for anyone thinking about putting money on Perez. A pressure fighter, Perez rarely takes a step backwards, alternating behind utilizing takedowns and forcing his opponents to wilt underneath a constant barrage of strikes. Should Perez look to utilize his wrestling, he has shown a weakness to slick grapplers, two-thirds of his career losses coming via submission, including being caught by Figueiredo when the champion was on his back. Given takedowns are such a large part of Perez’s attack, it’s hard to believe Schnell won’t have any sort of opportunity to get something going from the ground.
That said, betting on someone to find success based on their ground game is foolish, especially if the odds are that they’ll be on their back. Besides that, Perez’s striking, while not flashy, is extremely effective once he gets into a groove. Though his low kicks have begun to receive a lot of attention following his stoppage of Jussier Formiga via kicks to the legs. However, Perez’s ability to work over the body shouldn’t be overlooked either and he has overwhelmed opponents with his volume before. Given Schnell doesn’t appear to have the power to frighten Perez off, so it’s easy to see Perez staying in his face and throwing enough volume to force Schnell to melt, especially if the low kicks are able to slow the movement of Schnell. Perez via TKO of RD2
- I understand the version of Jacare Souza that Andre Muniz defeated is a shell of his former self, but the UFC couldn’t provide him with a clear step up in competition after he broke the grappling legend’s arm? That isn’t intended to be a knock on Eryk Anders — though I see how it appears that way – as it isn’t hard to see how Anders wins this fight. An explosive athlete with plus power, many believed he owned the ability to be a contender based on those attributes. What Anders has lacked is the consistency to put everything together on a regular basis. His last few contests have shown a more focused version of Anders, knowing what he wants to do and doing it, so perhaps he’s matured to the point that’s no longer an issue. For Muniz, it’s been a prerequisite for him to be a step ahead of his opposition mentally as the Brazilian isn’t much of an athlete. Muniz has been able to make up for it with a dangerous ground game, whether from the top position or off his back. Even when Muniz’s opposition has been able to avoid being submitted, it’s hard to escape from his sticky grasp. Muniz has good form on the feet too, but doesn’t have a natural feel for striking. In terms of physical tools, there’s no comparison: Anders is FAR superior. If he can maintain his newfound focus, he can score an upset pretty easy, especially given the stiffness of Muniz on the feet. However, I’m not so sure Anders can avoid the tactical trappings of Muniz as Muniz hasn’t gotten the credit he deserves in terms of his fight IQ and Anders will give Muniz the openings he’s looking for if he clinches up like he usually does. Muniz via submission of RD1
- While I admit Erin Blanchfield and Miranda Maverick is a fantastic fight, it’s also one I wish wasn’t made as I’m pretty sure both are going to be near the top of the division in a couple of years. Couldn’t we have made this fight later on down the road when it would likely mean more? Oh well. Of the two, Maverick is the more imposing physical presence. Though she’s a tad bit shorter than Blanchfield, Maverick possesses a muscular frame and has supplemented her physical grappling with a steady boxing game centered around her jab. In the case of Blanchfield, she’s proven to be wise beyond her 22 years. Nary a mistake was made in her UFC debut, beating Sarah Alpar from pillar to post in every aspect of the fight in one of the most dominant debuts in UFC history. Like Maverick, Blanchfield is best known for her BJJ, but it’s reasonable to assume she may try to keep the fight standing as her more dynamic approach on the feet could be the road to success for her. This should be a close contest. I expect Maverick to get her share of takedowns, but Blanchfield’s ability to defend and get back to her feet allow her score enough points on the feet to find the win. Blanchfield via decision
- Unfortunately for Ryan Hall, Ilia Topuria wasn’t blinded by the mystique surrounding the BJJ ace. Not that Hall isn’t deserving of mad respect on the mat — he’s a flat out wizard — but it’s no surprise he was previously undefeated in the UFC as opponents were overly wary of fighting their own fights out of too much respect. In the process, they fell into a trap of sorts, refusing to even risk the fight going to the mat. In those fights, Hall took advantage of a rangy kicking game as opponents haven’t wanted to close the distance, allowing him to secure enough points if he can’t get a submission. It’s hard to believe he’ll need to go that route with Darrick Minner as Minner is another submission specialist. He doesn’t have the same accolades as Hall, but he has far more MMA experience – his 22 submission wins is more than double the amount fights Hall has had – and has done a fantastic job of rounding out the rest of his game since going to train with James Krause. However, while Minner is great at finding submissions himself, he’s also prone to getting caught himself. It’s hard to believe the fight won’t hit the mat at some point and Minner doesn’t have the physicality Topuria possesses to overwhelm Hall. Hall via submission of RD1
- Even though he has yet to secure a quality win by UFC standards — neither of his wins owns an official UFC victory of their own — Randy Costa has still been able to successfully titillate the hardcore MMA fanbase with his tendency to deliver explosive action. There’s no need for the former Joe Lauzon product to warm up either, all his wins coming in under two-and-a-half minutes into the contest. Of course, that also means he’s lost every time the fight has gone beyond that point as he tends to exhaust himself in a hurry, his output and quality of his output declining rapidly. Tony Kelley has proven his ability to go a hard 15 minutes on several occasions, most notably in his UFC debut. Kelley is a technically sound Muay Thai striker, but he isn’t a particularly heavy striker. Plus, while his UFC debut saw him take home a well-deserved FOTN, he also fought at featherweight in that contest, meaning he didn’t need to dehydrate himself as much as he will here. Kelley is also coming back from a rotator cuff surgery and has mentioned needing to develop some workarounds with his shoulder. That’s worrisome enough for me to feel comfortable picking Costa with confidence. Costa via KO of RD1
- Even now that she has a couple of wins under her belt in the UFC, it’s still hard not to look at Priscila Cachoeira as the woman on the receiving end of one of the most brutal beatdowns in the history of the sport at the hands of Valentina Shevchenko. The Brazilian brawler cleaned up her technique some and though she’s still on the wild end of the spectrum, her punches have been finding a home with far more consistency than they did in her earliest UFC contests, with violent results. There’s still reason for concern heading into her contest with Gillian Robertson as the youthful Canadian knows better than to try and stand with her… and Robertson has a HUGE advantage on the mat. Robertson can be overly enthusiastic on the mat, but has generally displayed an excellent killer instinct, particularly when she’s able to find the back of her opponent. Robertson’s takedowns and striking have both improved in terms of technique, but she still doesn’t have a natural feel for either aspect the way she does her grappling. Regardless, Cachoeira’s takedown defense is questionable enough that it’s hard to see the fight remain standing the entire time, barring an early finish from Cachoeira. I favor the younger fighter in this one. Robertson via submission of RD2
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