UFC 276 isn’t the first time the UFC has appeared on ABC, but there’s no doubt the UFC is looking to provide some of the best action they can to curious viewers who might happen to tune in by accident. Every contest on the televised prelims are likely to be both competitive and entertaining. However, given that’s the obvious route to take, it’s more notable to point out the youthful fighters the UFC appears to be promoting.
Ian Garry is the obvious standout since the UFC has been priming him to be a star from the moment they signed him. Dricus Du Plessis and Jalin Turner have plenty of talent themselves, even if they haven’t received the same attention Garry has. There is a dose of familiarity as Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller clash in a battle to become the sole owner of all-time leader in wins in UFC history. There’s a strong chance their battle could be depressing given their advanced age, but perhaps they could end up digging deep and giving us all one for the road.
For the early prelims preview, click here.
Brad Riddell vs. Jalin Turner, Lightweight
There are all sorts of mysteries in the world. What happened to Flight 19? Is Bigfoot real? How does Turner cut down to 155 pounds? There have been fighters with Turner’s height who have successfully made the cut to 155, but Turner somehow manages to maintain a muscular frame and an ungodly reach. It’s hard to believe he’ll be able to make the cut for the entirely of his career – he’s still just 27 – but there’s no reason for him not to continue to feast on smaller men while he can still make the cut.
However, it would be foolish to assume Turner has been finding success strictly on the back of being a large lightweight. The dude has more than his share of talent. We all knew about his impressive punching power as that was what initially garnered him some attention from MMA fans in the first place. It was whether he could harness everything that comes with his impressive frame. Since coming to the UFC, Turner has done just that, developing a greater understanding of how to utilize his reach. I don’t just mean keeping opponents on the outside either. Should they find a way to navigate his length, he’s added step-in knees and elbows to make opponents reluctant to cross the distance.
Then again, it’s hard to find a more technical striker in the division than Riddell. The former striking coach at Tiger Muay Thai doesn’t have the natural power possessed by the likes of Turner. What he does have is an expert use of angles, distance, and timing that is matched by very few. What appears to be the thing that might hold Riddell back from becoming an elite lightweight is his lack of size. Despite all his striking prowess, Riddell has engaged almost exclusively in knockdown, drag ‘em out brawls as he has been unable to navigate his oppositions’ range without eating more than his share of damage in return. Plus, Turner’s size will make it difficult for Riddell to effectively counter, his specialty.
Riddell has been fortunate to have a hard chin, but Rafael Fiziev proved it can be cracked. That alone wouldn’t be enough to have me feeling confident in picking Turner. What does is the mat abilities of the two combatants. Riddell has proven to be better equipped on the ground than was expected when he first entered the UFC, but his takedowns serve as either a change of pace or hopes of him finding a position to deal out some damage. It isn’t about long periods of control or hunting for subs. Turner can do all of that. His spindly frame creates just as many problems on the mat as it does on the feet. And just like Turner’s striking, his ground game looks better every time he steps into the cage…. Turner via submission of RD2
- There’s no doubt Ian Garry is still considered a top prospect. However, in his two UFC appearances, he’s provided enough reasons for many to slow their roll on the idea of him being a future champion. While he secured a highlight reel KO in his debut and delivered a unanimous decision win in his sophomore effort, the lanky Irishman was also pieced up far more than expected against a pair of opponents he was supposed to outclass by a large margin. Thus, there are some who believe the UFC is bringing him along slowly by pitting him against Gabe Green. I’m of the opinion those pundits are selling Green short. Sure, Green’s significantly smaller than Garry. And he also had a major health scare about a year ago after a punch in the heart. But he’s also incredibly durable, pushes an insane pace, and is unwilling to back down. However, the thing that really has me thinking Green can pull off the upset is the veteran presence he has about him. He can adjust on the fly and he isn’t going to be scared off by Garry’s hype. If Garry were to utilize the full arsenal of his attack I.e. his ground game, I’d feel confident in picking him given Green’s weakness to takedowns. Unfortunately, Garry is more concerned with securing a highlight than getting a win. Perhaps eating some heavy shots from Green will change his mind in the middle of the fight, but there’s also a possibility it will already be too late by then. It’ll be a close fight, but I think Green provides Garry with a valuable veteran’s lesson. Green via decision
- For whatever reason, Donald Cerrone is insistent that he’s going to get a fight in after having his contest with Joe Lauzon canceled on two occasions. At least it’s another fighter who has put an insane amount of mileage on their body in Jim Miller. Cerrone won their first contest all the way back in 2014, but that was also Cerrone on the best run of his career while Miller appeared to be in decline prior to his diagnosis with Lyme disease. The circumstances are far different this time around. Cerrone appears to be shot while Miller’s career has caught a third or fourth wind. Perhaps the year-plus layoff for Cerrone can reinvigorate him. It isn’t unheard of for an older fighter to successfully recharge after a similar break, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. Cerrone’s chin isn’t what it used to be, he’s always been a slow starter, and Miller tends to be a hellion out of the gate. Some may point out fighting at 170 works in the favor of Cerrone, but he’s also two weeks off cutting down to 155. Too many things are stacked against Cowboy for me to feel comfortable picking him, though I will admit Miller’s age and mileage shouldn’t make anyone feel like he’s a sure thing. Miller via TKO of RD1
- I’ll admit, I wasn’t sold on Dricus Du Plessis when he first came into the UFC. Not that I didn’t see promise in the product of South Africa, but the level of competition in his home continent isn’t exactly great. Despite my doubts, Du Plessis’ power has translated to the UFC, securing KO’s in both of his appearances. He’s been impressive enough on the feet that most appear to have forgotten Du Plessis’ ground game was thought to be his biggest strength upon entering the organization. He’ll have a hard time showing his ground game against Brad Tavares as the UFC mainstay has proven to be exceptionally tough to get and keep down. Tavares doesn’t do anything flashy, but he does an excellent job of mixing in low kicks with his simplistic boxing. If Du Plessis can keep Tavares from establishing his jab, he should be able to cruise to victory. That’s easier said than done. Despite all that, I was initially leaning towards Du Plessis due to his youth and power advantage. However, the film review reminded me how defensively deficient the youngster is. There’s only so many fights a fighter can win out of nowhere and Tavares is a big step up from the likes of Markus Perez and Trevin Giles. Tavares’ chin isn’t iron, but he is more alert defensively than either of Du Plessis’ previous victims. Tavares via decision
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