I’m a fight fan. In other words, I take in as much of the sport as I can, UFC or not. Because of that, I can usually find any excuse to take an interest in any fight. Convincing others that a fight is worth tuning into is a bit more difficult. There’s a reason I didn’t go into sales….
The televised portion of UFC 286’s prelims are a hard sell to casual observers. The name that might be most familiar to those fans may be fighting for his employment. Half of the competitors are making their UFC debuts. None of those debutants have the look of future contenders, much less future champions. Then again, many believe Muhammad Mokaev looks like a future champion. So if you’re interested in claiming you’ve watched a champion’s journey each step along the way, it might be worthwhile to tune in.
For the early prelims preview, click here.
- When you’re talking about fighters with the highest fight IQ’s, Jack Shore needs to be in the conversation. The Welshman is a limited athlete, but found a way to break into the official UFC bantamweight rankings despite being at a sizeable disadvantage in terms of physical gifts in comparison to the others charted. That’s what technique and intelligence will do for you. Opting to move up to featherweight, Shore is likely to lose one of the few advantages he typically had in strength, but he won’t be at as much of a speed disadvantage. Despite that, most would agree he’ll still be at a disadvantage in that category against Makwan Amirkhani… at least early on. Amirkhani has proven himself to be a dangerous scrambler and submission specialist early in contests. Unfortunately for him, so long as his opponents can survive his early onslaught of takedowns, he tends to end up being a sitting duck beyond the first round, sometimes even before that. At 34, it’s reasonable to believe Amirkhani could begin to lose a step, if he hasn’t already. Given Shore’s intelligence, it’s hard to believe he won’t be ready for Amirkhani’s early swarm and pick him apart after that. I’ll even go so far as to say Shore, whose own grappling credentials are fantastic, looks to make a statement by being the first to submit Mr. Finland. Shore via submission of RD2
- The UFC has need for fun action fighters. As much as I long for intelligent fighters who know when to pick their spots to go balls to the wall, I acknowledge it’s the brawlers that tend to attract new fans through the door. There’s a reason the likes of Justin Gaethje and Diego Sanchez garnered such loyal followings. That’s got to be what the UFC sees in Chris Duncan as I don’t see his reckless style allowing him to climb too high up the lightweight ladder. I get that he’s still seen as a prospect, but his amateur career stretches back to 2014 and he’ll be 30 in a couple of months. Duncan has been around long enough that a major transformation seems highly unlikely. That said, he does have the power to turn out the lights of an off-guard opponent. Whether he can do that to Omar Morales is up for debate. A few years ago, most would have definitively answered no as Morales is a counter striking tactician. However, now aged 37, the Venezuelan native has shown signs of slowing down, getting finished in his last two contests. If Morales hasn’t lost a step, he’s got the power and timing to make Duncan pay a heavy price. Given Morales was never an elite athlete and MMA is a game of inches, he’s probably in big trouble if the slippage is real. Morales may no longer be cutting down to 145, but I think that sucked some fighting years out of him. Plus, at his age, it’s easy to fall off a cliff within ten months, which was when he last stepped in the cage. I’m not crazy about Duncan, but I think he can win this one. Duncan via TKO of RD1
- It was no surprise when the UFC signed Sam Patterson. The Brit is unusually tall for lightweight, clocking in at 6’3” or 6’4” — depending on which website you look at — with a 78” reach. Given his age and experience, the 26-year-old has a good knowledge of how to use his height and length to his advantage, not to mention using it to wrap up his opponents, provided he can get them to the mat. Patterson’s defense needs work – his chin is there to be touched up – but it’s a manageable issue against shorter opposition if he can keep them at the end of his reach. Yanal Ashmoz is the type of shorter opponent I’m talking about. The Israeli has shown some power in his short career, but those finishes came against questionable competition. The problem is, the only area he might have an advantage over Patterson is his power. And that’s a maybe given Patterson’s wins have come over better competition than Ashmoz has faced. Patterson’s chinny nature ensures this isn’t a gimme, but I don’t understand signing Ashmoz at this juncture. He could be UFC material, but an extra fight or two on the regional scene would have offered more clarification. At this point, he feels like a grinder who doesn’t have the physical tools to get away with that at this level. I feel confident picking the lanky Brit. Patterson via submission of RD3
- If you’re wondering why Muhammad Mokaev isn’t getting a deserved step up in competition, it’s because the phenom couldn’t get anyone ahead of him in the rankings to agree to sign on the dotted line in a short amount of time so Mokaev could fight on this card. Thus, Jafel Filho will be making his UFC as a very heavy underdog. It’s a bit of a shame as Filho offers a lot of promise. Offering a slick grappling game with signs that he’s developing into a legitimate threat on the feet. However, he hasn’t faced anyone with the physical wrestling employed by Mokaev, nor with the explosion on the feet Mokaev provides. Plus, Filho has been able to get away with throwing flashy strikes at a rate he won’t be able to get away with at a higher level. Mokaev did show some weakness to a savvy grappler when he had his troubles with Malcolm Gordon – perhaps why Filho thinks he can win this – but Mokaev is only 22. He’s got a long way to go before he’s done improving and he’s already pretty damned good. In other words, I find it hard to believe the youngster doesn’t learn from his experiences with Gordon. Mokaev should continue his ascent up the flyweight ladder with relative ease. Mokaev via TKO of RD1
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