While Amanda Nunes settles her score with Cris “Cyborg,” the Bantamweight division will produce another contender this Saturday when top prospect Aspen Ladd faces former Featherweight queen Germaine de Randamie in Sacramento. Also at Bantamweight, Ricky Simon welcomes Urijah Faber back to the Octagon after 2.5 years away, while Josh Emmett and Mirsad Bektic go at it 10 pounds north.
Four more “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict (check out the first batch here); therefore, so let’s not delay.
205 lbs.: Mike Rodriguez vs. John Allan
Mike Rodriguez (10-3) smashed Jamelle Jones with a flying knee on “Contender Series” for his fourth consecutive first-round knockout, earning a UFC contract in the process. “Slo-Mike” dropped a decision to Devin Clark in his promotional debut, struggling with “Brown Bear’s” wrestling, then bounced back by finishing Adam Milstead in Milwaukee.
He’ll have a 7.5-inch reach advantage on his Brazilian foe.
John Allan (13-5) put the hurt on Vinicius Moreia on the Contender Series: Brazil, but ultimately tapped to a triangle choke once “Mamute” got his grappling going. He returned to action less than three weeks ago with an impressive finish of unbeaten Alexandre Silva, leaving him 5-1 in his last six.
He steps in for the injured Gian Villante on little more than one week of notice.
Allan’s a fun addition to the division, an aggressive power-puncher with a delightful willingness to wreck the body. Even better, his shoddy grappling won’t be an issue against a willing striker in Rodriguez, allowing him to unleash the entirety of his arsenal.
His flat-footedness and reach disadvantage, on the other hand, will be issues.
Though Allan’s shown a nice jab, he’s going to have serious issues closing more than half a foot of distance, especially considering the damage Rodriguez can do with knees and straight lefts up the middle. Worse, Allan’s punches tend to get wider when he tries to put together lengthy combinations, leaving him even more vulnerable to the taller man’s linear blows. Rodriguez answers Allan’s relentless advance with a nasty knee sometime in the first round.
Prediction: Rodriguez via first-round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Andre Fili vs. Sheymon Moraes
Andre Fili (19-6) alternated wins and losses in the Octagon until 2018, when he followed up a dominant victory over Artem Lobov with a controversial decision over Dennis Bermudez. He was on the wrong end of the next split decision against Michael Johnson, but started 2019 strong by beating Myles Jury in Phoenix.
“Touchy” has won eight fights via (technical) knockout and three by submission, though his last six bouts have gone the distance.
Sheymon Moraes (11-3) got a rough welcome to UFC, debuting against the surging Zabit Magomadsharipov and tapping to an anaconda choke, but established himself as a contender in his own right by upsetting “Contender Series” prospects Matt Sayles and Julio Arce. He took on yet another “Contender Series” alumnus in Sodiq Yusuff, going toe-to-toe with the heavy-handed Lloyd Irvin-trained product en route to a competitive decision loss.
He’ll give up three inches of height and two inches of reach to Fili.
It’s hard to get a bead on Moraes. At his best, he’s a lethal, accurate Muay Thai machine with one-shot power in his hands. At his worst, he’s content to cruise and bank on the quality of his shots outweighing the superior volume coming back at him. He has the tools to be a contender in a crazy-stacked division … he just needs to use them properly.
Fili is out-gunned on the feet, but his wrestling and general well-roundedness make this a toss-up. After seeing the issues Fili’s had with more technical strikers, though, I’ll pick Moraes despite my reservations.
Prediction: Moraes via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Nicco Montano vs. Julianna Pena
Nicco Montano (4-2) defeated Lauren Murphy, Montana de la Rosa, and Barb Honchak in The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 26 house before taking a decision over Roxanne Modafferi to claim the division’s inaugural title. A planned defense against Valentina Shevchenko fell through when Montano fouled up her weight cut, and the Jackson’s product was ultimately stripped of her title.
She went undefeated (4-0) as an amateur before joining the professional ranks in 2015.
Despite entering the show on a two-fight losing streak, Julianna Pena (8-3) dominated on TUF 18, finishing three of her four opponents en route to tournament victory. Three more Octagon victories earned her a headlining spot opposite Valentina Shevchenko, who caught “Venezuelan Vixen” with an armbar late in the second round.
Pena, who replaces the injured Sara McMann, has not fought since Jan. 2017.
The upset-happy Montano looked like a solid Flyweight threat, but Bantamweight is another story. Pena has been able to take down every one of her UFC opponents, including Shevchenko, and I don’t see Montano winning this fight without consistently establishing top control.
Ring rust will need to do a lot of heavy lifting to keep this competitive.
This would be a rough match up for the former Flyweight champ even without the weight difference. Factor in Pena’s size and strength and Montano’s got serious problems. Though it should be fairly even on the feet, Pena’s ability to lean on her wrestling as needed will allow her to take a comfortable decision.
Prediction: Pena via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Darren Elkins vs. Ryan Hall
Darren Elkins (24-7) put together a wholly unexpected six-fight win streak from 2015 to 2018, defeating the likes of Chas Skelly, Mirsad Bektic and Michael Johnson along the way. Though he managed to last the distance against Alexander Volkanovski in defeat, “The Damage” couldn’t do the same against Ricardo Lamas, who put away Elkins with vicious ground-and-pound for the Team Alpha Male-trained product’s first stoppage loss since 2013.
Elkins has scored eight professional wins via (technical) knockout.
Hall used his Brazilian jiu-jitsu wizardry to reach the semifinals of TUF 22, and though he lost to Saul Rogers, a quirk of fate gave him the opportunity to dominate Artem Lobov on the Finale and claim victory in the tournament. He has since won a decision over Gray Maynard and became the first man to submit B.J. Penn in mixed martial arts (MMA) competition in Dec. 2018.
Counting his run on TUF, Hall has scored heel hooks on four of his last six opponents.
Will you look at that, another two-true-outcome fight; Indeed, either Hall taps Elkins early or Elkins repeats Rogers’ efforts and grinds Hall into the dirt from guard. I don’t see Hall keeping Elkins off of him with his funky kicks or playing backpack the way he did against Lobov. For my money, it’s quick submission or bust.
Luckily, Hall has the goods to get that quick submission.
Elkins is 35 years old and has taken beatings in four of his last five fights. He managed to come back and win two of those, but I think we’ve seen the best of him. Hall takes advantage of Elkins’ lack of speed and general decline to Imanari roll his way into another heel hook finish.
Prediction: Hall via first-round submission
Yeah, most of UFC Fight Night 155 is nothing to write home about. Bektic vs. Emmett is great, though, and I can definitely see this producing some highlight-reel finishes. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 155 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will stream on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.
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