The prelims of UFC San Antonio offers a mix of newcomers and those looking to avoid the chopping block. No surprise, that’s typical of prelims. But there’s also at least one contest that’s easy to identify as a bout that belongs on the main card ahead of some other fight. This time around, it’s hard to argue against any of the contests being moved ahead of the main card offerings. It helps that the UFC isn’t giving us the obligatory low-level heavyweight slugfest that has become a staple of Fight Night main cards.
As for what the prelims offer, there are some prospects that look like they could be big players if they pan out – Vinicius Salvador and Hailey Cowan come to mind – but those feel like big if’s to me.
- He never got the credit he deserved as one of the better action fighters in all of MMA, but Daniel Pineda should have been recognized that manner. I say “should have been” as opposed to just “should” as he’s now 37 with a lot of hard charging miles on his featherweight frame. In his last performance, a no contest against Andre Fili 21 months ago, he looked like a shot fighter whose heart was the only thing that hadn’t faded. Nearly two years later, it’s hard to believe his physical skills are better than they were at that time. That said, it appears the UFC is giving him a solid chance to pick up a win. Not that Tucker Lutz is a pushover, but he doesn’t appear to have any finishing skills at the UFC level. He’s well-rounded and technical, but he lacks any standout physical skills. What he does is continue to plug away with a steady, workmanlike approach that will break a fighter mentally before it breaks them physically. There won’t be breaking Pineda mentally, but he sure as hell can outwork him. Despite having 27 career wins under his belt, Pineda has never won by decision. Lutz’s durability hasn’t been tested by finishers, which is why it’s reasonable to question if he can eat something from Pineda. Regardless, Lutz has held up so far and Pineda looks like he has lost a step. I expect Lutz’s conservative approach will work against an aged Pineda. Lutz via decision
- You’d be hard-pressed to find a more worn 32-year-old featherweight than Steven Peterson. He began his amateur MMA career at the age of 17 and was cutting down to 135 for a good chunk of his extensive professional career. I get that Peterson isn’t a huge 145er – he’s tall, but not bulky — but he was HUGE for 135. I have a hard time believing he didn’t do some long-term damage to his body with those difficult weight cuts. That said, you will NOT find a more hard-nosed fighter on the roster. Peterson is as scrappy as they come and just technical enough in all areas that he can threaten anywhere if his opponent gets lazy. Plus, he’s just a lot of fun to watch. He’ll be fighting a very much unknown quantity in Lucas Alexander. Alexander is a slick outside striker who knows how to use his length to his advantage. He’s also in the UFC sooner than he should be, his lone quality win coming against an opponent who suffered an injury. Peterson is the type of scrappy veteran who eats up youngsters for lunch, forcing them into the type of brawl or a grinding affair, both of which he thrives on. Remember, he did the same thing to Chase Hooper. I anticipate Peterson breaking down at some point soon, but I don’t think it will be this fight. Peterson via submission of RD3
- There always seems to be at least one fighter on the roster who confounds observers with their inconsistency. If you ask analysts to name one fighter, Trevin Giles is going to be a name that comes up quite frequently. He’s a plus athlete, has a stiff jab, can wrestle, and it’s rare he’s the smaller man in the cage now that he’s moved to welterweight. And yet, he’s a guy no one believes they can trust that he’ll ever put it all together. When he does, he can beat almost anyone. After all, Giles does have a wins over the likes of Roman Dolidze, Ryan Spann, and Brendan Allen. The issues are his questionable durability and fight IQ. The weird thing is, Giles can be fighting a perfect fight for two-and-a-half rounds, only to let a mental miscue get the better of him. That’s why there’s a strong belief a still unproven Preston Parsons can pull out the win despite some clear shortcomings. Parsons’ lone UFC victory saw him bully a short notice lightweight, playing into Parsons’ strengths of wrestling and grappling. Giles is the bigger, stronger, and better athlete, but Parsons’ submission savvy and superior wrestling technique could overwhelm Giles and force him into a bad error. Picking a Giles fight is an operation in futility, but I’m leaning towards him as I’m not sold on Parsons yet. He’s not a bad athlete himself, but I haven’t seen enough on the feet to pick him ahead of Giles. Giles via decision
- Someone in the UFC offices likes Daniel Lacerda. They’d have to for him to be brought back for a fourth fight when he’s been finished in his first three UFC fights. To be fair to Lacerda, he is a lot of fun and has threatened each of those opponents before his gas tank betrays him. Well, I supposed a bonehead decision contributed to one of those losses, but there’s no denying the Brazilian’s talent. Lacerda has solid power and excellent scrambles… provided he’s fresh. That said, he’s only left the first round twice in his career and has never entered a third round. It seems highly unlikely that will change this time around as CJ Vergara may not fight with the same aggression Lacerda does, but no one has ever accused him of being passive. The Texas native is certainly more technical and may have more power. Vergara’s biggest weakness is that he’s in the running for the slowest flyweight on the roster, leaving open the possibility Lacerda can catch him in a submission, provided he can instigate a scramble. Hell, maybe Lacerda catches him something heavy. Given Vergara’s veteran savvy, I expect he’ll be ready for anything the Brazilian throws at him. Vergara via TKO of RD1
- When he was signed to the UFC from Lookin’ For a Fight, many analysts saw Trey Ogden as a sleeper in the lightweight division. Not that anyone thought he had credentials to develop into a title contender, but he could spoil the party of an upstart prospect or two given his high fight IQ. Maybe even three, depending on how long he hung around. Ogden crapped the bed in his UFC debut, refusing to engage Jordan Leavitt and allowing him to pick Ogden apart. Ogden rebounded against Daniel Zellhuber, but also played things incredibly safe in that contest. Losing his camp doesn’t help as he was part of James Krause’s team. Regardless, he seems tailor made to upend Manuel Torres. Torres is super aggressive, chasing down his opponents with his fists flying along the way. However, he isn’t a technical machine, leaving holes wide enough for a Mack truck to plow through. More important than Ogden proving he’s a savvy submission specialist, he’s also proven durable. That still doesn’t assure me he can survive Torres’ barrage. It’s a difficult fight to decipher, but I’ll say Torres’ advantages in speed and athleticism allows him to catch Ogden and put him away. If he doesn’t expect Ogden to either snatch a submission or take the last two rounds for a decision. Torres via TKO of RD1
- Vinicius Salvador is an interesting flyweight prospect. He has the one trait that is incredibly rare at 125: serious KO power. All but one of his 14 career victories have come by a KO/TKO finish. The problem is, he’s got plenty of other issues. For example, Salvador’s technique needs a lot of work and his gas tank is very much in question. There are no questions about the gas tank of Victor Altamirano. The native of Mexico has proven he’s capable of effectively going hard for 15 minutes, mixing in striking, wrestling, and grappling with equal aplomb. If he can do that, he’s an easy favorite. The problem is, he’s proven he’s also willing to engage in a firefight… something Salvador would almost certainly come out on top. Altamirano has proven to be durable, but he hasn’t faced anyone with the raw power of Salvador. If Altamirano can get out of the first round, he’s probably going to pull it out. Given his questionable defense, I’m guessing he doesn’t… guess is the optimal word as Salvador hasn’t been facing the best competition. Salvador via TKO of RD1
- It was just a month ago Hailey Cowan was scheduled to fight Ailin Perez, even going through the weigh-ins before an illness forced her out. She gets a quick turnaround, meeting up with Tamires Vidal. In terms of physical skills, Cowan is the superior athlete. She’s bigger and stronger, but she is far from refined. Not that Vidal is refined, but she fights with a level of confidence and aggression missing from Cowan. That alone has many looking at Vidal as the most likely winner. There’s reasons to state otherwise as Cowan’s best skillset is wrestling and Vidal not only hasn’t proven her ability to stop takedowns, she’s also looks like she could – and should – be fighting at flyweight. Combine that with Vidal’s habit of gassing after the first round and Cowan should be able to have her way with Vidal after the first round. That first round could be difficult given Vidal lets her fists fly and there is power behind those punches. However, given Cowan is still improving, has shown good durability, and is supremely conditioned, I’ll pick her to emerge victorious. Cowan via decision
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