The prelims of UFC Austin are – as usual – a mixed bag. There’s a couple of fights that I don’t care for. Not that they are poorly matched or don’t make sense, but they involve fighters I don’t see going anywhere. However, there are other fights that have me raising my eyebrows. While I’m puzzled by the opponent the UFC matchmakers settled on for Adrian Yanez, that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in watching the youngster doing his thing. Plus, there’s a middleweight contest that I would say is more deserving of a spot on the main card than some of the other contests populating that position on the card.
I will forewarn that the eight preliminary fights – 14 overall for the card – could prove to be too much for some, but I would highly recommend tuning in for the final prelim with Yanez. After all, he has picked up a Performance Bonus in each of his UFC contests.
- The UFC is taking a slow roll with Adrian Yanez. Not that I necessarily have a problem with it, but just about any other flashy striker with personality with four consecutive wins is knocking on the door of fighting ranked opponents at the very least. Instead, Yanez is being matched with Tony Kelley. No disrespect to Kelley as he is a tight striker with a mean streak who is heading into this contest with consecutive wins himself. But those consecutive wins were a bit of a surprise and he’s already 35. I can’t help but get the feeling the UFC is setting him up to be a highlight for Yanez. After all, Kelley will stand and throw fisticuffs with Yanez – Kelley has yet to complete a takedown in his UFC run – and takedown defense was the biggest question mark surrounding Yanez entering the UFC. Yanez does appear to have shored it up, but no one has seriously tested his ability to remain upright quite yet either. Regardless, this is a contest between two slick strikers with a high probability for FOTN. Yanez will have the edge in diversity of strikes, power, and overall athletic ability. Throw in the UFC is usually pretty good at setting up their chosen prospects up for success up to a certain point. Yanez has yet to surpass that point. Yanez via TKO of RD2
- There’s a Cinderella story to Natalia Silva. To put it in terms of March Madness, she’s made it to the second round by making it to the UFC after starting her MMA career 1-3. Whether she can get to the Sweet 16 or further is where we’re at now. The former Jungle Fight champion has been on the roster for about two years, but a broken arm pushed back her debut until now. The film shows someone who needs a lot of polish on the feet, but has some power to work with and an aggressive submission game. The problem is most of those fights came against cans. She’ll be welcomed by Jasmine Jasudavicius, a prospect in her own right despite her 33 years. Jasudavicius started late in MMA – her professional debut came at 30 – but she has taken to the sport like a fish to water. Her wrestling background certainly helped the transition, but her striking is shockingly clean for someone with so little experience. As she continues to develop, I can only think she’ll get better with the use of her reach… something she’s already pretty good at. Jasudavicius via decision
- Just over a year ago, it looked like longtime UFC mainstay Court McGee was on his way out the door. With five losses in his previous six appearances at the age of 36, that was the only logical conclusion anyone could draw. Instead, McGee claims to have rediscovered his mean streak, delivering his most inspired performances in years to pick up back-to-back victories. Though pillow-fisted, McGee has been able to maintain his roster spot for 12 years thanks to his impressive durability and ungodly cardio. No matter how many punches he throws or how many takedowns he attempts, McGee never seems to get tired. The same can’t be said of his opponents. That’s going to be the key for the thickly built Jeremiah Wells. Wells is the inverse of McGee. His stint in the UFC is in its early stages. He has plenty of power. Solid submissions too. Perhaps most importantly, he’s a plus athlete. What he doesn’t have is a proven gas tank. If this was the prime version of McGee, I’d be picking him as I’m not so sure Wells would be able to put him away. As it is, despite McGee’s mini-revival, he’s on the backside of his career. Wells is at or near his prime. Some may point out Wells is only two years younger, but McGee has a lot of miles on his body that was exacerbated by his drug use up through his early 20’s. Even if Wells can’t put McGee away and fades down the stretch, I think he can do enough in the first two rounds to edge out the crafty vet. Wells via decision
- When Danny Chavez was signed, it was during the height of the pandemic and the UFC was desperate for bodies. To his credit, he won his debut and has proven to be a hell of a tough out with fast hands, justifying his signing. However, now 35-years-old and never known for superior physical gifts, he looks like he’s being used to get Ricardo Ramos back on track. Ramos has had his ups and downs, looking like a potential star one fight, only to be on the receiving end of a brutal KO the next. Given he was only 21 when he first joined the UFC, the inconsistency shouldn’t be a surprise. Now 26, Ramos has begun to level off some, relying less on spinning attacks and utilizing a wrestling game that has developed into a massive strength. Chavez has proven difficult to take down, meaning Ramos could prove to be in over his head with Chavez’s simplistic boxing and low kicks. I’m not positive Ramos gets the win, but I do believe his steady progression will continue. Combine that with a good chance Chavez’s battle with Father Time could begin to take effect and Ramos feels like the only logical pick. Ramos via submission of RD2
- I haven’t heard anyone site lack of talent as a reason why Maria Oliveira and Gloria de Paula appear to be languishing near the bottom of the barrel at women’s strawweight. It doesn’t take a lot of film study to recognize their physical gifts. No, it’s a lack of quality experience for both of the youngsters, indicating they both would have benefitted from additional experience on the regional scene where they weren’t fighting relative newcomers to the sport. De Paula appears to be the more fundamentally sound striker, showing greater attention to defense than Oliveira. Given the level of competition, I’m not confident in my assessment that Oliveira has a slight advantage in power. Even if she does, she doesn’t have the same natural feel for striking de Paula possesses. My level of confidence in my pick is low, but I’ll go with de Paula. De Paula via decision
- Coupling a three-fight losing streak with a style that tends to lack much in terms of aesthetic pleasure, most expected Cody Stamann was going to be released earlier this year. Instead, the UFC is giving the squat wrestle-boxer one more chance to make good. Stamann appears to have hit a hard ceiling, thanks in large part to limited athleticism and an unnaturally short reach. To be fair to Stamann, he makes the most of what he has to work with, featuring solid combination boxing when he can get in the pocket and he can fall back on a solid wrestling game. Most importantly, during his losing stretch, Stamann has faced some tough competition. He faces a true OG in Eddie Wineland. Wineland was one of the best bantamweights on the roster once upon a time, but that was roughly a decade ago. While he appears to still have his power, his speed and durability appear to have taken significant hits. Perhaps more troubling, the game appears to have passed him by; Wineland hasn’t evolved with the rest of the sport. Stamann is a bit of a stylistic throwback himself, but his style is more evolved. Plus, he still appears to be able to take a punch. Stamann via decision
- The UFC has been trying to pair Deron Winn and Phil Hawes together for about a year. Well, it looks like they’re finally going to square off. Both feature strong wrestling backgrounds – Winn was an NAIA All-American, Hawes was a JUCO champion – but very different frames. Whereas Hawes features what most what most would say is an ideal frame for middleweight – about 6’0” tall, muscular, and athletic – Winn’s squat 5’6” frame has proven troublesome for him. He did win a slugfest against an opponent who has been considered a poor striker and spammed takedowns against a different opponent who is seemingly incapable of stopping takedowns. Winn has yet to win a UFC contest against an opponent without a glaring hole. Hawes can get overconfident, leading to bonehead mistakes, and fades down the stretch. Do I think Winn can expose either of those? Given Winn tends to gas as well – it isn’t easy navigating longer opponent’s reach at his size – I think Hawes can keep it together enough to emerge victorious over his shorter counterpart. Hawes via decision
- No one is quite sure what to make of Roman Dolidze. The native of Georgia is clearly a talented grappler with a strong chin. He also appears to be lacking in terms of fight IQ, allowing his opponents to dictate where the fight takes place. Plus, he seems to have a personality that rubs people the wrong way. Regardless, until Dolidze decides to take his opponents seriously, his ceiling appears to be limited. The consensus is Kyle Daukaus is one of those talented enough to make Dolidze pay for his lackadaisical attitude. Of course, those who have paid attention to Daukaus would realize Daukaus has had the same issue of allowing his opponents to dictate where the fight takes place. To be fair, Daukaus’ last two fights have shown a greater commitment to him not being so accepting of his opponent’s dictates. Throw in the fact his grappling appears to be the equivalent of Dolidze’s and Daukaus is the cleaner striker and the American feels like a relatively safe pick. Dolidze could spoil that with his natural power, but I see Daukaus’ impressive durability holding up. Daukaus via decision
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