The Heavyweights take center stage inside Cadillac Arena in Beijing, China, this Saturday (Nov. 24, 2018) as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Fight Pass for an early-morning show. In UFC Fight Night 141’s main event, Curtis Blaydes attempts to avenge his lone career loss against Francis Ngannou, while the co-main sees the venerable Alistair Overeem face one of Russia’s best in Sergey Pavlovich. Viewers will also get to see rising local standouts Yan Xiaonan and Song Yadong in action.
Before all that, though, let’s preview and predict the top four “Prelims” undercard bouts (check out the first batch here):
205 lbs.: Rashad Coulter vs. Hu Yaozong
Rashad Coulter (8-4) has yet to taste victory in the Octagon, but he’s certainly given fans their money’s worth during his three-fight UFC tenure. After securing “Fight of the Night” in his madcap debut against Chase Sherman, “Daywalker” succumbed to a flying knee from Tai Tuivasa and started strong against Chris de la Rocha before falling victim to the latter’s ground-and-pound.
All eight of his wins have come by knockout, six of them in the first round.
Hu Yaozong (3-1) became the first Chinese Heavyweight to step foot in the Octagon when he debuted against Cyril Asker last year. Unfortunately, “Bad Boy” had no answers for the Frenchman’s grappling and tapped to a rear-naked choke in the second round.
He is four inches taller than Coulter, but will give up as many inches of reach.
All things considered, Coulter really isn’t all that bad a fighter. He’s got quick hands for a Heavyweight, heart for days, and a chin that it took a 265-pound flying Aussie to crack. His cardio just isn’t there, unfortunately.
Hopefully, dropping a couple dozen pounds will pay dividends in that area.
Hu is coming off a loss to arguably the worst Heavyweight on the roster in Asker and has a fraction of Coulter’s experience. Even if “Daywalker” shows no improvement, he should be fine as long as he makes it to the scales without issue. Coulter overwhelms him with speed and power en route to finally entering the UFC win column.
Prediction: Coulter via first-round technical knockout
115 lbs.: Jessica Aguilar vs. Zhang Weili
Once the queen of the Strawweight division, Jessica Aguilar (20-6) has enjoyed mixed success in UFC, going 1-2. After consecutive losses to Cláudia Gadelha and Cortney Casey, “Jag” entered the win column in July with a decision over fellow veteran Jodie Esquibel.
She had won 10 straight before joining the Octagon, including two wins over arguable Strawweight G.O.A.T. Megumi Fujii.
Zhang Weili (17-1) established herself as China’s top fighter with 16 consecutive victories, all but one of them inside of two rounds. In her Octagon debut, she took on durable veteran Danielle Taylor and took home a unanimous decision.
She has knocked out nine opponents and submitted another six.
Now this is a crossroads fight. There was a time when Aguilar was the best in the world, while Zhang has been on a rampage since losing her debut. In addition, “Jag” will be the best wrestler Zhang’s faced to date, meaning there’s certainly a possibility that she plays spoiler.
Not a big one, unfortunately.
Zhang figures to have a considerable edge in striking and has proven herself able to do major damage on the inside, meaning every shot Aguilar takes will be fraught with danger. Worse, Aguilar’s fight IQ has been spotty during her Octagon tenure and Zhang hits too hard to permit mistakes. Zhang makes it 2-0 in UFC, outsriking Aguilar at range with her kicks and landing hard on the inside when the latter tries to force the takedown.
Prediction: Zhang via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Wu Yanan vs. Lauren Mueller
Wu Yanan (8-2) rebounded from a loss to Yana Kunitskaya with two consecutive victories before making her Octagon debut. She took on grappling specialist Gina Mazany, who defeated her by unanimous decision and prompted her to drop to 125 pounds.
This will be her first fight in 355 days.
Just four fights into her professional career, Mueller defeated Kelly McGill-Velasco on “Contender Series” to earn Dana White’s attention. She debuted eight months later against The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran Shana Dobson, taking home a competitive decision in Glendale.
She will give up three inches of height to “Mulan.”
Wu should have an easier time of things at 125 pounds, but that’s not enough to offset her non-existent takedown defense. Gina Mazany took her down five times, and opponents who saw that fight or the Kunitskaya stomping are going to zero in on that weakness without fail.
Mueller has the tools to do that.
“Princess” can keep up with Wu in a slugging match and has the option of bringing it south any time things get hairy. She grinds her way to a second consecutive UFC victory.
Prediction: Mueller via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Song Kenan vs. Alex Morono
Song Kenan started his Octagon career strong with a 15-second pasting of Bobby Nash in his Octagon debut, defying 2.5-1 odds to do so. He returned to action seven months later, stopping TUF: “Latin America” veteran Hector Aldana with punches late in the second round.
He has knocked out and submitted six opponents apiece.
Alex Morono (14-5) went unbeaten in his first three Octagon appearances, upsetting Kyle Noke and James Moontasri before going to a “No Contest” against Niko Price. He has since gone 1-2, a guillotine finish of Josh Burkman sandwiched between decision losses to Keita Nakamura and Jordan Mein.
“The Great White” is one inch shorter than Song, but will have an inch of reach on him.
Morono has definitely come up big when I wrote him off, but if you count the Price knockout and fix the judging against Noke and he’s essentially 2-4 in the Octagon. Though his grappling is legit, his lack of wrestling and ungainly striking relegate him to the role of “action fighter.”
Song might be in the same category, admittedly, but he’s the sharper kickboxer of the two and is durable enough to tank Morono’s swings. The real question is how he deals with Morono’s jiu-jitsu, as his takedown defense has been a little shaky. Morono’s more than happy to slug it out, though, and this likely comes back to bit him as Song outbrawls him for a decision.
Prediction: Song via unanimous decision
UFC Fight Night 141 features a few new faces worth keeping an eye on. Just be sure you’ve got some energy drinks on hand for the early-morning start time. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 141 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bouts at 3:15 a.m. ET right into the main card start time at 6:30 a.m. ET (also on Fight Pass).