Previewing UFC Fight Night 131

In a 5 day turnaround, the UFC makes its first trip to Utica New York and has a Top 5 Bantamweight showdown headlining a Friday card. For the 3rd week in a row, the UFC has a free card from a city they have never visited before. This time it is from Utica, New York as the UFC is coming closer to the end of their string of consecutive spring events. The card is headlined by a fight that could determine the next 135lb title challenger as Jimmie “El Terror” Rivera (21-1 #4 Ranked Bantamweight) takes on Marlon “Magic” Moraes (20-5-1 #5 Ranked Bantamweight). After last weekend’s event in Liverpool, the UFC has one more event until the mega-card in Chicago next week at UFC 225. This Utica card has a chance to deliver the perfect lead into that huge event. The card is relatively light in name power, but there are some excellent matchups of some rising contenders. With 13 fights scheduled let’s take a look at Friday nights festivities.

The night kicks off on UFC Fight Pass with a Flyweight matchup between Jarred “The Monkey God” Brooks (13-1) taking on UFC newcomer Jose “Shorty” Torres (7-0). Jarred Brooks is coming off the first loss of his career in a close split decision to Deiveson “Deus de Guerra” Figueiredo (14-0 #14 Ranked Flyweight). Brooks returns looking to get back on track in the very wide open Flyweight division. Brooks will look for the takedown early and often using his wrestling background to control the action. If he can stay more active on the mat, and use his UFC experience to his advantage he should walk away back in the win column. Jose Torres steps into the UFC following a run in Titan FC that saw him win both the Bantamweight and Flyweight title. He also successfully defended both of those during that run. Torres is 25 years old and could be looking at a fast rise in a UFC division that is devoid of stars outside of the champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson (27-2-1 Flyweight Champion). Torres has won his fights in a relatively even way with 3 knockouts, 2 submissions, and 2 decision wins. Torres will need to keep his composure early to get over the UFC jitters if he expects to make a splash in his debut. Prediction: Jose Torres via Decision.

Another debuting fighter on the card is next as Nathaniel “The Prospect” Wood (13-3) is set to take on Johnny Eduardo (28-11). Nathaniel Wood enters the UFC on a 5 fight win streak. The former Cage Warriors Bantamweight Champion is entering a 135lb division that is filled with contenders. He will get a test early with Eduardo who is a long time UFC veteran. Wood has 4 straight knockout victories including the last 3 being in the first round. He has some serious power for the 135lb division. The question will become is will the debut nerves get the best of him. Johnny Eduardo has been alternating wins and losses in his last 4 fights. He last fought in June of 2017 where he suffered a knockout loss, and now after almost a year off the 37-year-old will be looking to jump back into the Octagon. Eduardo has 13 career submissions to his name to go along with 8 knockouts, so finishing fights is not a problem. Eduardo is going to have to lean on his experience to walk away the victor in this one. Prediction: Nathaniel Wood via TKO.

We close out the Fight Pass prelims as Jessica “Jag” Aguilar (19-6) steps into the cage to take on Jodie Esquibel (6-3). Jessica Aguilar has hit a rough 2 fight losing streak in her last two appearances. Aguilar has fought through injuries that have kept her relatively inactive since 2015. Aguilar will need to get a win here to ensure her spot on the roster. Aguilar has 8 career submission victories, and if she can get this fight to the ground she will have her hand raised for the first time since 2014, and for the first time in the UFC. Aguilar is most certainly the more experienced fighter of the two, and she can lean on that as she looks to finally get back on track. Jodie Esquibel dropped her UFC debut in October of last year via decision.  The Invicta FC veteran goes to the judges a majority of the time in her fights. She has the ability to stay in fights and keep grinding away. Esquibel is outmatched on the ground, so keeping the fight standing has to be a priority. This is a tough draw for Esquibel, but it is hard to count her out. Prediction: Jessica Aguilar via Submission.

We head to the FS1 prelims as Desmond “The Predator” Green (20-6) steps into the Octagon against longtime UFC veteran Gleison Tibau (40-13). After winning his UFC debut Desmond Green has dropped 2 straight decision losses and is now facing a real must-win situation. Green goes to the judges a majority of the time having 14 decision wins. Green will have a chance here to get back in the win column if he can use his grappling to his advantage. Green will need to make sure he goes after the victory early in this one to leave no doubt he deserves to be in the UFC. Gleison Tibau returned from a lengthy USADA suspension in January of this year and was knocked out in 57 seconds. The 11-year UFC veteran has now lost 3 straight and is in desperate need of a win to keep his roster spot. The 13 submissions on his resume most certainly gives him the advantage on the ground. Tibau has also gone to the judges a lot in his career with 16 decision wins. This one has a chance to be a relatively slow-moving fight that gets decided by those at cage side. Prediction: Desmond Green via Decision.

We jump up to Welterweight next as Belal “Remember The Name” Muhammad (13-2) welcomes Chance “Black Eagle” Rencountre (12-2) to the UFC. Belal Muhammad has rattled off 3 straight wins and returns to the cage for the first time in 2018. Muhammad sees the judge’s 2/3rds of the time he enters the cage, but a finish here would go a long way. Muhammad’s boxing is where he thrives, and he has finished 4 opponents by knockout. His UFC experience will no doubt go a long way as he welcomes a new fighter to the UFC. Chance Rencountre joins the UFC on short notice and steps in looking to add to his 4 fight win streak. Rencountre has finished his last 3 opponents including 2 straight first-round finishes. Rencountre has 6 career knockouts and 2 submission victories. The ground game may be his advantage on this night, and he will take anything he can get in his UFC debut. Prediction: Belal Muhammad via Decision.

We drop down to 155lbs and head into a matchup between Nik “The Carny” Lentz (30-8-2 1NC) taking on David Teymur (7-1). Nik Lentz looked solid in his last time out scoring a 2nd round submission victory pushing him to 3-1 in his last 4 UFC fights. That is where Lentz excels in his submission game. He has submitted 11 opponents in his MMA career. Lentz has been around the block in the UFC and is looking to start another winning streak. Lentz also has the ability to grind out wins, which he has shown in the past with his wrestling. Lentz will need to be smart on the feet and avoid the big exchanges if he wants to get his hand raised. David Teymur has gone 4-0 in the UFC and is coming off a 3 round decision back in December. Teymur has run off 7 straight after dropping his pro debut and has shown some serious power. Teymur knows how to dictate the standup very well, and if he can move in and out and land his power we could see a very quick night for him. Prediction: David Teymur via TKO.

We close out the FS1 prelims with a matchup of cast members of The Ultimate Fighter Season 26 as Sijara “SarJ” Eubanks (3-2 #2 Ranked Women’s Flyweight) is set to take on Lauren “Lucky” Murphy (10-3 #3 Ranked Women’s Flyweight). Sijara Eubanks missed her shot at UFC gold when she was hospitalized during her weight cut leading up to the finals of The Ultimate Fighter. That botched weight cut saw her removed from the finals, and certainly was a setback in her UFC career. She now is set to make her UFC debut, and successfully made the 125lb weight limit. Eubanks was super impressive during her run to the finals on Season 26 finishing her first two fights, and then taking a 3 round decision over #1 seed Roxanne “The Happy Warrior” Modafferi (21-15 #8 Ranked Women’s Flyweight). She will need to put the first time UFC jitters behind her early in this one if she expects to get her shot at the title. Lauren Murphy had a tough time on the season of the Ultimate Fighter. She came in as a veteran of the UFC and dropped her first fight in the tournament to eventual winner Nicco Montano (5-2 Women’s Flyweight Champion). Murphy rebounded with a win over Barb “The Little Warrior” Honchak (10-4 #6 Ranked Women’s Flyweight) at the show’s Finale. Murphy is a talented fighter who can finish on her feet. She will have to be wary of Eubanks wrestling and grappling, as she uses her size to impose her will on the mat. Murphy can lean on her UFC experience, especially in a big spot like the featured prelim it is somewhere she has been before. This one has a chance to be a really fun one to close out the prelims. Prediction: Lauren Murphy via Decision.

We kick off the FS1 main card with a 205lb matchup between Gian Villante (16-9 #15 Ranked Light Heavyweight) and “Smile’N” Sam Alvey (32-10 1NC). Gian Villante got off the losing track with a 3 round split decision win back in January. Villante’s game plan as of late has been simply to move forward bite down on the mouthpiece and swing for the fences. However, you can’t sleep on Villante’s ground game. If he turns this into a slugfest this could be an early night for either guy. Villante has 10 career knockout victories, and he could most certainly close this one out early. Sam Alvey moved up to 205 in his last fight and walked away with a first-round knockout win. Alvey has been around the block in the UFC and remains one of the most active fighters on the roster. Alvey has gone 2-2 in his last four following a 4 fight win streak. The 19 career knockouts is what really stands out in this one because Villante is a guy that gets hit. If Alvey can get his hands on Villante early he is looking at 2 straight wins in his new division. Prediction: Sam Alvey via TKO.

We drop way down to Featherweight and we get Julio Arce (14-2) going up against Daniel “Kid Dynamite” Teymur (6-1). Following his win on the Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series Julio Arce made his UFC debut at UFC 220 and walked away with a decision win. Arce has rattled off 6 straight wins and is looking to make it 2 in a row under the UFC banner. Arce has 3 knockouts and 4 submissions to his name along with 7 decision wins. Arce will have to be smart on the feet if he wants to get the victory here. Daniel Teymur suffered his first career loss in his UFC debut via decision. This was the first time in Teymur’s 7 fight career he had not only seen the judges, but he had never even been out of the first round. Teymur has to be aggressive early and make sure that he can be in the face of Arce. Teymur needs to get his punches off early and look to close it out quickly. Prediction: Julio Arce via Decision.

Two veterans of the game Jake “The Juggernaut” Ellenberger (31-13) and Ben “Killa B” Saunders (21-9-2) take the cage next. Jake Ellenberger has gone 1-4 in his last 5 and 3-7 in his last 10. Ellenberger has been knocked out in consecutive fights, and most certainly appears to be on the last leg of his career. At 33 years old however Ellenberger has a lot of miles on him. It seems like ages ago he rattled off 6 straight wins and was arguably 1 win away from a title shot. If Ellenberger has any shot of staying on the roster he has to pull out a win here. Taking the fight to the ground is a dangerous prospect with a jiu-jitsu guy like Saunders, but the experience of Ellenberger has to have him ready for that. This win would go a long way in the road to a potential comeback for Ellenberger. Ben Saunders is in a similar situation having dropped 3 of his last 5 including also being knocked out in his last 2. Saunders has been around a long time, and will need to get a win if he expects a shot at staying in the UFC. Saunders best bet may be to get this fight to the ground and work his submission game. This one seems like a matchup of two guys trying to battle against the always undefeated Father Time. Prediction: Jake Ellenberger via TKO.

The next matchup is the only Heavyweight bout on the card as Walt “The Big Ticket” Harris (10-7) takes on Daniel “Daddy Long Legs” Spitz (6-1). Walt Harris is coming off a short-notice loss followed by a disqualification for an illegal kick. Prior to that Harris had won 2 straight and was seemingly on the rise in the UFC. All 10 wins for Harris have come via knockout, and it is exactly what he will be looking to do in this matchup. Harris really is only going to be looking to stand unless we get into a ground and pound situation. Harris will have to be smart, and find the right time to unleash his big right hand. Daniel Spitz scored his first UFC victory his last time out when he finished off his opponent in just 24 seconds. Where Spitz really has the advantage is if this fight goes to the mat. His 3 career submission victories show that he can get it done on the mat if it goes there. Spitz has to avoid the big looping shots from Harris if he can do that Spitz will walk away with his hand raised. Prediction: Daniel Spitz via Submission.

We head to the Co-Main event, and it is at 155lbs as the undefeated Gregor “The Gift” Gillespie (11-0) takes on Vinc “From Hell” Pichel (11-1). 4 straight victories for Gregor Gillespie have him on the cusp of the Top 15. Gillespie won his UFC debut via decision, and then followed it up with 3 straight finishes. Two of those finishes have been 1st round knockouts. He now enters the cage as the favorite, and on the verge of earning a ranked opponent. Gillespie can finish on his feet and on the mat. He will need to be on his game against Pichel and make sure that the pressure of the co-main event position in his home state doesn’t get to him. Gillespie has been up for every task ahead of him so far, so the pressure shouldn’t be too much to deal with. Vinc Pichel has also rattled off 4 straight wins after dropping his UFC debut. Pichel is a heavy-handed fighter with 8 career knockout victories. Pichel is going to look to get the pressure on Gillespie early and close the distance. Pichel could spoil the coming out party for Gillespie and make a real name for himself in a big spot like this. This fight has fight of the night written all over it. Prediction: Gregor Gillespie via TKO.

The main event is here and in what you could call a title eliminator Jimmie “El Terror” Rivera (21-1 #4 Ranked Bantamweight) takes on Marlon “Magic” Moraes (20-5-1 #5 Ranked Bantamweight). Jimmie Rivera has not lost since 2008, in his second career fight. He has won 20 straight fights including 5 straight in the UFC. Rivera has gone to the judges in 4 straight after debuting with a 1st round knockout. Rivera can do it everywhere, but his standup is where he really excels. He is able to keep some distance and get his shots off without getting in to a lot of trouble. Rivera is a guy many have said should be already in a title matchup. It looks like it will take this win to secure that title shot. Rivera is only 28, which means he is really just entering his prime, and if he can improve on how impressive he has been so far the 135lb division needs to be on notice. Former World Series of Fighting Champion Marlon Moraes dropped his UFC debut, and followed it up with 2 straight wins. The latest coming on a spectacular knee to the head 1st round knockout. Moraes seemed to need to get that first UFC fight out of his system, and has now settled in and only gotten better. Moraes has a chance to secure a title shot with a big win here over a guy like Rivera. Moraes would have a chance to be on a very short list of guys who held titles in the World Series of Fighting and the UFC. He was highly touted when he arrived, and that last outing showed exactly what he can do. This fight is going to be a barn burner, and well worth the wait to close out this show. Prediction: Marlon Moraes via Decision.

The UFC is bringing its road show to Utica this weekend as it gears up for next week’s huge Chicago card. The very rare Friday night card comes at a perfect time with Friday being an off day for both the Stanley Cup and NBA Finals. The card has some really great matchups and some budding prospects. With 3 new people debuting this week we have some potential prospects looking to make an impact. This should be a fun night filled with entertaining fights, but let’s be honest the card we are all looking forward to is the one next week at UFC 225.

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