Previewing UFC Fight Night 138
The UFC returns for the first time in several weeks with an FS1 card headlined by a Top 10 Light Heavyweight matchup from Canada. The UFC has been off since UFC 229 and all the commotion that came with the end of that card. The MMA news cycle has been churning with talks of trades and potentially even the removal of a weight class in the UFC. This weekend, however, we are back to fighting and we have a 13-fight card. The card is headlined by two top 10 lightweights as former 205lb title challenger Volkan “No Time” Oezdemir (15-2 #2 Ranked Light Heavyweight) takes on longtime MMA veteran Anthony “Lionheart” Smith (30-13 #10 Ranked Light Heavyweight). As the UFC holds its first event in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada we look at the entire card which doesn’t exactly jump off the page. However, we do have some solid matchups, and it always seems to be the cards that don’t look impressive on paper go on to surprise and make for a fun Saturday night.
We get started on UFC Fight Pass, and it is a matchup at Lightweight as Stevie “Braveheart” Ray (21-7) will take on Jessin Ayari (16-4). Stevie Ray is looking to turn it around after suffering his first consecutive losses via split decision against “Ragin’” Kajan Johnson (23-14-1) back in March. The 28-year-old Scotsman will need to get back to what saw him go 5-1 in his first 6 UFC fights. Ray has gone to the judges in 5 of his last 6 fights. Ray needs to get back to his finishing ways that saw him finish 14 opponents 6 via knockout and 8 via submission. Ray is still only 28 years old and has valuable experience against some high-level UFC talent despite losing a few of those matchups. If Ray can get back in the groove we are looking at a guy who can make noise at 155lbs. Jessin Ayari has been out of action since his sophomore appearance in the UFC resulted in a decision loss to Darren “The Gorilla” Till (17-1-1 #2 Ranked Welterweight) who came in 6lbs overweight). Ayari has gone 1-1 in the UFC but had won 6 straight leading up to his UFC debut in September of 2016. Ayari is just 26 years old, and with only 2 fights under his belt at the UFC level, it is unclear what they have here. He has 3 knockouts and 8 submissions to his name. He is going to want to avoid the standup battle with Ray in this one that is for sure. Prediction: Stevie Ray via TKO.
We jump all the way up to heavyweight next as Canada’s own Arjan Singh Bhullar (7-1) locks horns with Marcelo Golm (6-1). Arjan Singh Bhullar is returning following his first career loss at the hands of Adam “Siwy” Wieczorek (10-1) back in April. The second-round submission loss has the very talented wrestler looking to regroup heading into his matchup Saturday. The 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medalist and 2007 Pan American Bronze medalist wrestler will have his hands full in this fight, but he can rely on his wrestling to help him in the matchup. Bhullar has the wrestling capability that allows him to control the fight no matter where it goes. If he can get the fight to the mat and stay on top, he may even be able to close this one out with ground and pound. Marcelo Golm followed up his impressive 2-minute submission win in his UFC debut with a disappointing decision loss to Timothy Johnson (12-5) who now fights for Bellator. The 26-year-old Brazilian is every talented and throws absolute sledgehammers for fists. His 5 career knockouts that preceded his UFC debut have yet to really shine through in the world’s biggest MMA promotion. Look for him to make sure Bhullar feels his power early and often in this fight. Prediction: Arjan Singh Bhullar via Decision.
The UFC debut for Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series alum Te’ “Tango” Edwards (6-1) closes out the Fight Pass card against another newcomer Don “Magic Man” Madge (7-1). Te Edwards scored a first-round knockout over Austin Tweedy (9-2) in June that scored him a UFC contract. Here we are just a few months later and Edwards will have a chance to take home his first UFC win. In all 6 of his wins, Edwards has scored the knockout or TKO finish. The 28-year-old Arizona native is going to want to get off to a fast start just like he did in the UFC gym. He just must put the UFC jitters behind him and get in the mix early. For Don Madge, the path to the UFC was a little bit different than Edwards. He battled his way up the ranks in his home country of South Africa. Where his last bout for EFC Worldwide saw him take down their 155lb title. That was 17 months ago. He had his UFC debut canceled due to an injury back in May, but now is fully healthy and looking to make an impact. Madge has finished all 7 of his wins 4 knockouts and 3 submissions. Madge has won 4 straight, and all with finishes, he will just have to shake off some of the ring rust. He will also have to deal with the UFC jitters. This is a fun matchup and could be between 2 real up and comers in the UFC. Prediction: Don Madge via Decision.
We head to the FS2 Prelims and our only female fight of the night at 135lbs as Sarah “Cheesecake” Moras (5-4) takes on Talita Bernardo (5-2). Sara Moras has alternated wins and losses in her 4 UFC appearances and is coming off a decision loss to Lucie Pudilova (8-2 #13 Ranked Women’s Bantamweight). Moras is finally getting healthy after only fighting twice since 2015. She is only 8 months now since her last fight. She is a talented grappler, who has faced some stiff competition in her career. Moras has 2 knockouts and 2 submissions on her record and could add to that Saturday. Talita Bernardo came into the UFC as a highly touted prospect, but things have not gone her way. She is coming off her second straight loss at the hands of Irene Aldana (9-4 #12 Ranked Women’s Bantamweight) that dropped her to 0-2 in the UFC. Bernardo got to the UFC based on her submission prowess and her 4 wins via tap out. Her fights have just not gotten to the ground where she could take advantage of her skills. She went from potentially hot prospect to close to having to find a new promotion to compete in. Prediction: Talita Bernardo via Submission.
We head to Featherweight next as Calvin Kattar (18-3) is set to welcome Chris Fishgold (17-1-1) to the UFC. Calvin Kattar had a 2-fight win streak snapped in April when he dropped a decision to Renato Moicano (12-1-1 #4 Ranked Featherweight). Kattar has looked very impressive in his 3 UFC fights with his 2-1 record. Kattar has 7 career knockouts and can stand up with anybody at 145lbs. The Massachusetts native has a chance to cement himself in the 145lb division by stopping the hype behind the debut of Fishgold. A 7-fight win streak for Chris Fishgold is how he enters the Octagon. He finished all but one of those and that was a title defense in Cage Warriors at 155lbs. He now drops down to 145lbs and gets a chance to make a splash in the UFC. Fishgold is a master on the ground with 12 of his 17 career wins coming via tap out. He loves to go for the guillotines and rear naked chokes. This is an early fight on the card but could be one of the most entertaining on the card. Prediction: Chris Fishgold via Submission.
We jump one weight class up to Lightweight as Thibault “GT” Gouti (12-4) steps in to take on Nasrat Haqparast (9-2). Thibault Gouti is coming off a tough loss to “Super” Sage Northcutt (11-2) that took his UFC record to 1-4. Gouti has a chance to stick around in the UFC if he can score a win. He looked solid against Northcutt despite not getting it done. Gouti has 4 knockouts and 6 submission wins to his name. Gouti needs to grab a win here if he expects to keep his spot on the roster. For Nasrat Haqparast a rebound from his UFC debut loss came in the form over formerly hyped prospect Marc “Bonecrusher” Diakiese (12-3). Haqparast was a knockout machine prior to joining the UFC having finished all 8 of his wins. He has gone the distance both times in the UFC and will look to get his first finish on Saturday night. Haqparast has power that is for sure, he just must show it now in the UFC. Prediction: Nasrat Haqparast via TKO.
We close out the FS2 prelims with a big matchup at 170lbs as Nordine Taleb (14-5) takes on Sean “Tarzan” Strickland (19-3-1). Nordine Taleb had won 2 straight before being tapped out in the 1st round against Claudio “Hannibal” Silva (11-a) in May. The former kickboxer is a powerful striker. His hands can end a fight very quickly. Taleb has 7 career knockouts and 7 decision wins. His struggles have always been on the mat. He must keep the fight standing if he wants to walk away with yet another UFC win. Sean Strickland is coming off a brutal spinning wheel kick knockout loss to Elizeu “Capoeira” Zaleski Dos Santos (20-5 #15 Ranked Welterweight) back in May. Strickland returns having dropped 2 of his last 3. He needs to get back on track and get into the mode that saw him win 3 straight from 2015 to 2016. Strickland is a heavy hitter who has 8 career knockouts. He also has 4 career submission wins that could absolutely come in to play in this matchup. He is going to want to get Taleb to the mat where he should have a decided advantage. Prediction: Nordine Taleb via TKO.
We head to the main card and stay at 170lbs as Alex “The Dominican Nightmare” Garcia (15-4) takes on Ultimate Fighter Season 11 winner Court “The Crusher” McGee (19-7-1). Alex Garcia is coming off a decision loss to newly retired UFC fighter Ryan LaFlare (13-3) back in April. Garcia never really got it started in that matchup and was unable to get his heavy hands moving. Garcia may have 6 knockouts, but he is not just a power puncher. Garcia has also won 6 bouts via submission. Outside of winning his first 2 UFC fights Garcia has alternated wins and losses ever since. Garcia needs to make sure he maintains his stamina in this one, but he is one punch away from being back in the win column. Court McGee returns after almost a year away from the octagon where he suffered a decision loss to Seas Strickland. McGee has had an up and down career since taking home the Season 11 title on the Ultimate Fighter. His UFC career started with 3 straight wins, but he has gone 4-6 in the UFC since then. McGee is a very talented wrestler and a grappler who can control the fight in close. He will need to do that to neutralize the striking of Garcia. This should be a fun one to kick off the main card. Prediction: Alex Garcia via TKO.
We head to 205lbs next as Gian Villante (16-10) takes on longtime UFC veteran Ed “Short Fuse” Herman (24-13 1NC). Gian Villante has been underwhelming since joining the UFC from Strikeforce in 2013. Villante has really hit a lull dropping 3 of his last 4. Villante has been going to the judges a lot too. He has lost 2 split decisions and won a split decision in that time frame. Villante has serious power and has 10 knockouts, but he must show it. This is a very winnable fight for Villante who may be fighting for his promotional life on Saturday. Ed Herman was the runner-up on Season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter. Now 11 years later the 38-year-old is coming off 2 straight losses. He has only fought 3 times since the beginning of 2016 as injuries have derailed him. Herman has always been the middle of the road guy in the UFC. He would string together wins and when the competition got towards the higher end he would come up just short. Herman is a talented grappler, and his game plan should be to take the fight to the mat and try and add to his 13 career submission wins. This could be the dreaded loser leaves town matchup for sure. Prediction: Gian Villante via Decision.
We head to Bantamweight next as Andre “The Asian Sensation” Soukhamthath (12-6) welcomes Jonathan “Dragon” Martinez (9-1) to the UFC. Andrew Soukhamthath is coming off loss to “Sugar” Sean O’Malley (10-0) where he was criticized online for not taking advantage of the obviously injure O’Malley. Soukhamthath failed to force O’Malley, whose leg was badly compromised, standing in the third round. Soukhamthath is now returning and will be looking to get back in the win column. Soukhamthath has dropped 3 of his 4 UFC bouts. He is knockout artist however with 8 of his career wins coming via knockout. Soukhamthath must put his most recent loss in the back of his mind and come out looking to lean on his UFC experience to get a much-needed win. 24-year-old Jonathan Martinez enters the UFC on a 2-fight win streak. He is a short notice replacement for Gavin “The Newfoundland Terror” Tucker (10-1). He gets a chance to step up on a main card and pick up his first UFC win. Martinez has 5 career knockouts and 2 career wins by submission. He will need to push the jitters down and really focus to get a debut win. Prediction Andre Soukhamthath via Decision.
We head to 205lbs for a Top 15 matchup as Misha Cirkunov (13-4 #11 Ranked Light Heavyweight) takes on Patrick “Durkin” Cummins (10-4 #14 Ranked Light Heavyweight). Misha Cirkunov is really in need of a win following a second straight knockout loss and this one was to Glover Teixeira (27-7 #8 Ranked Light Heavyweight) in December of 2017. Prior to these two losses, Cirkunov had won all 4 of his UFC fights inside the distance. Cirkunov is a talented wrestler who has 7 career submission wins. The 31-year-old Latvia native needs to get back on track or he may find himself outside of the Top 15 sooner rather than later. For Patrick Cummins a tough decision loss in April to Corey “Overtime” Anderson (12-4 #7 Ranked Light Heavyweight). Cummins is an extremely talented wrestler who has shown the ability to walk through tons of punishment. The former NCAA standout at Penn State has one goal, and that is to score the takedown and control the fight on the ground. Cummins has lost 3 of his last 5, but that has not prevented him from milling around the Top 15. If Cummins gets the fight to the ground, he may be able to ride out yet another victory. Prediction: Misha Cirkunov via Decision.
We head to the Co-Main event of the evening as late replacement Michael “The Menace” Johnson (19-12) takes on Artem “The Russian Hammer” Lobov (14-14-1 1NC). Michael Johnson came into the fight missing weight by 1lbs. Let’s be honest though that won’t be what makes the difference in this fight. Johnson stepped in as a late replacement for Zubaira “Warrior” Tukhugov (18-4) who was removed for his role in the melee that followed the main event of UFC 229. Johnson is a much better fighter than Lobov. He has faced and defeated much better and more talented fighters than Lobov. This should be a fight that Michael Johnson can win with relative ease. He just must keep himself out of rough situations that could get himself caught. If he does that Johnson will pick up his second win at 145lbs in the UFC. Artem Lobov certainly has heart and he was the runner-up on Season 22 of The Ultimate Fighter. However, he has been very underwhelming in the UFC. A 2-4 record in the Octagon with a 14-14-1 record overall. Let’s be honest his relationship with “The Notorious” Conor McGregor (21-4 #2 Ranked Lightweight) is the reason he is still hanging around the UFC. Lobov even contemplated retirement following his last loss to Andre “Touchy” Fili (18-6). However, this is the UFC, and every fighter has a chance. The problem is Lobov just feels overmatched in this one. Look for Johnson to control this one from the word go. Prediction: Michael Johnson via Decision.
It is Main event time next as Volkan “No Time” Oezdemir (15-2 #2 Ranked Light Heavyweight) takes on longtime MMA veteran Anthony “Lionheart” Smith (30-13 #10 Ranked Light Heavyweight). Volkan Oezdemir is coming off a loss in his attempt to get the 205lb title at the hands of Daniel “DC” Cormier (21-1 1NC Heavyweight Champion). Prior to that Oezdemir had 3 straight wins to start his UFC career. His two knockouts that were a combined 1 minute and 10 seconds got him his shot at gold. Oezdemir certainly has dynamite in his hands, but the question is where he is mentally after the drubbing that Cormier put on him. Oezdemir has 11 career knockouts and will look to stand and bang with Smith and there are just no questions asked. For Anthony Smith, the step, up to 205lbs has been nothing but productive. Smith had milled around at 185lbs going 4-2 in that division. He now moved up to 205lbs and went on a legend stomping tour that included 1st round knockout wins over two former UFC Light Heavyweight champions in “Suga’” Rashad Evans (24-8-1) and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (25-11 #12 Ranked Light Heavyweight). Smith has a shot here to make an even bigger mark at 205 with a win over the most recent title challenger. A win here catapults him into title contention just 3 fights into his 205lb tenure. Smith has 17 career knockouts, but the sneaky thing here is he also has 10 career submission wins. He has the advantage on the ground. If he can follow DC’s blue print and get the fight to the mat, he could walk away a big winner. The thing that worries me about Smith in this matchup, however, is the fact that he has been knocked out an astonishing 8 times in his career. That looms large when you talk about facing such a prolific knockout artist like Oezdemir. This should be a fun one that gets a “don’t blink” description. Prediction: Volkan Oezdemir via TKO.
The UFC is putting UFC 229 and all the drama from there behind them as the head to Moncton. The card again is not filled with household names, but it is filled with good matchups. This main event is a can’t miss as far as big punches and action go. The UFC is using this card as more of an appetizer for next week’s UFC 230 live from Madison Square Garden. You can’t overlook this fight card however and hopefully, we all get a nice surprise form a card that certainly lacks the big hype and big names.