Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) hits the “Mile High City” once again with a couple of slobberknockers at the helm this weekend (Sat., Nov. 10, 2018). In the FOX Sports 1-televised main event, “The Korean Zombie” returns against late replacement Yair Rodriguez, while Donald Cerrone throws down with Mike Perry up at Welterweight.
We’ll also get to see Germaine de Randamie against Raquel Pennington and a Flyweight showdown between Ray Borg and Joseph Benavidez.
UFC Fight Night 139 features four “Prelims” undercard bouts to look at before that, though (check out the Fight Pass portion here), so let’s dig in.
115 lbs.: Ashley Yoder vs. Amanda Cooper
Ashley Yoder (5-4) defeated Jodie Esquibel in the opening round of that same The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 23 season, only to fall to Kate Jackson shortly thereafter. She’s gone winless (0-3) in UFC itself, though she did fight Mackenzie Dern to a split decision in March.
“The Spider Monkey” has four professional wins via armbar.
Amanda Cooper (3-4) represented Team Claudia on TUF 23, reaching the finals before submitting to teammate Tatiana Suarez. She’s since alternated wins and losses, defeating Anna Elmose and Angela Magana and tapping to Cynthia Calvillo and Mackenzie Dern.
She is four inches shorter than Yoder and will give up five inches of reach.
It is not clear to me the reason UFC elected to make this the featured “Prelims” bout. Neither Yoder nor Cooper have any real momentum at the moment, and though they’re both good grapplers, they’re not super entertaining. I can’t imagine this fight being the sort of spectacle that convinces a skeptical viewer to stick around for the main card.
As with most clashes of similarly skilled submission artists, this one will come down to who gets on top more often. Cooper’s measly 20 percent takedown defense and tendency to get tapped once she’s on her back suggest that Yoder will get the first takedown and finish it soon after.
Prediction: Yoder via first-round submission
145 lbs.: Chas Skelly vs. Bobby Moffett
Chas Skelly (17-3) rebounded from a debut loss to Mirsad Bektic to win six of his next seven bouts, including a 19-second anaconda choke of Maximo Blanco that earned him “Performance of the Night.” Things took a turn for the unpleasant against Jason Knight, who handed Skelly the first stoppage loss of his career via ground-and-pound.
This will be his first fight in almost 18 months.
Losses to Raoni Barcelos and Thanh Le kept Bobby Moffett (13-3) from earning RFA or LFA gold, but he got a shot on “Contender Series” last August against Jacob Kilburn. Moffett put his wrestling chops to good use, scoring his second consecutive D’arce finish early in the second round.
“The Wolfman” has tapped eight opponents overall, half of them via D’arce.
This is a clash between two extremely similar fighters. Both are big, strong wrestlers with dangerous chokes, plus decent enough stand up to where they’re not fishes out of water if they can’t get the takedown. It’s honestly razor close in my mind; Skelly is the more proven of the two against top opposition, but his cardio has failed him in the past.
In the end, it will boil down to who can consistently wind either on top or in dominant position against the fence. I say Skelly does so for the first two rounds, then turns away a resurgent Moffett in the third to eke out a decision.
Prediction: Skelly via split decision
155 lbs.: Beneil Dariush vs. Thiago Moises
Beneil Dariush (14-4-1) — who opened his UFC career 8-2 — has not tasted victory since upsetting Rashid Magomedov in Nov. 2016. After running face-first into an Edson Barboza knee, Dariush settled for a draw against Evan Dunham, then suffered a shocking one-punch knockout loss to unheralded Alexander Hernandez in March.
Six of his nine stoppage wins have come by submission.
Thiago Moises (11-2) submitted Dave Castillo in 2016 for the RFA Lightweight championship, which he defended twice before losing to Robert Watley after RFA merged with Legacy. After choking out Jeff Peterson, he got called up to “Contender Series,” where he knocked out an overweight Gleidson Cutis in the first round.
He replaces the injured Chris Gruetzemacher on two weeks’ notice.
Moises is a strong young talent at 23 years old, boasting solid combination punches, deceptively fast kicks, and a nasty submission game. Unfortunately, his skillset isn’t well-suited to dealing with what Dariush brings to the table; Moises struggled with Watley’s pressure and looks to be the lesser wrestler by a fair margin, meaning Dariush should be able to hold his own at range, in the clinch, or in top position if needed.
The unknown here is Dariush’s confidence after the last couple of years. He’s a genuine top-notch fighter, but two brutal knockouts can throw anyone off. Assuming Dariush has his head on straight, he stifles Moises’ kicks and beats him up at close range to take the decision.
Prediction: Dariush via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Devonte Smith vs. Julian Erosa
Devonte Smith (8-1) picked up a trip of stoppage victories after a loss to John Gunther, including a 90-second knockout of UFC veteran Justin Edwards, to get his own spot on “Contender Series.” There, “King Kage” obliterated the undefeated Joseph Lowry with Travis Browne-style elbows to punch his ticket to the Octagon.
Seven of his eight stoppage victories have come via (technical) knockout.
Julian Erosa (22-5) was the last man standing for Team Faber on TUF 22, reaching the semifinals before falling to Artem Lobov, but went just 1-1 in the Octagon before getting the axe. He went on to win six of his next eight fights, then knocked out Jamall Emmers on “Contender Series” to earn a second chance.
“Juicy J” is five inches taller than Smith, but will give up one inch of reach.
Erosa has certainly improved since his initial Octagon tenure, but he still keeps his hands low and chin high; this could work if he used his 6’1” frame to its fullest, but he simply lets opponents get too close with his looping punches and naked kicks. This is a man who got chinned by Artem Lobov and Teruto Ishihara despite boasting at least half a foot of reach on both.
Smith just hits too hard for Erosa to be this lackadaisical on defense. Though Erosa could certainly make it interesting through his long-range kicks, expect Smith to get inside and find the mark with a bomb before too long.
Prediction: Smith via first-round knockout
“Korean Zombie” vs. Rodriguez and Donald Cerrone vs. Mike Perry are going to be sheer madness. Don’t miss ‘em!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 139 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bout at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.