The three day fight festival that included UFC 200 has only ended and we are already being treated to another fight card, this time it’s Fight Night 91 with the UFC making its first appearance in South Dakota. Headlining the event is exciting bantamweights Michael “Mayday” McDonald and John Lineker. “Mayday” made his long awaited return to the Octagon in January after a two year absence from the sport. Touted as a future star of the division, McDonald will be desperate to get his career back on track and begin his climb up the rankings. Looking to put his own stamp on the bantamweight division is John Lineker; after spending several years cutting too much weight at flyweight, Lineker finally made the step up to the 135 pound bracket and has looked as dangerous as ever in his previous two outings, at his new weight class. The co-main event sees lightweight stand out Tony Ferguson take on newcomer Landon Vannata, who is a late replacement for the injured Michael Chiesa, in what Ferguson hopes will be another victory to add to his 7 fight win streak. Elsewhere on the main card, UFC vet Tim Boetsch takes on Josh Samman, heavyweight bruisers Daniel Omielanczuk and Oleksiy Oliynyk go to war, Kyle Noke battles Keita Nakamura and two of flyweight’s best prospects Louis Smolka and Ben Nguyen will be aiming to throw their names in the mix for a crack at long time champion Demetrious Johnson.
As always, I will now break down all the main card fights, give my predictions and of course put my own “Armchair Expert” title on the line.
MICHEAL McDONALD vs. JOHN LINEKER
“Mayday” will be eager to make an impression here; he has spent two years on the side lines and watched as the bantamweight division has filled with viable challengers. It’s hard to believe McDonald is still only 25 having already amassed 8 fights under the UFC banner, including a loss for the interim belt. McDonald looked solid in his comeback fight at UFC 195 and if he can produce the “Mayday” of old, he could be set for another shot at the belt. The man stood opposite him and with the same aspirations is John Lineker, a dangerous Brazilian with one punch knockout power. Nicknamed “Hands of Stone”, Lineker has sent 12 opponents crashing to the mat and will be attempting to do the same again in South Dakota. Both fighters will look to come out and dominate the centre of the Octagon and push the pace. Question marks still linger over the ability Lineker has to last the 5 rounds, so if McDonald can avoid getting clipped then the favour starts to lean towards him in the latter stages. That being said, McDonald has only had one fight back since his long layoff and Lineker likes to push the pace early on, so it could come down to a battle of the gas tanks. I think Lineker has looked impressive in his new division and although this is a step up in competition, he should have enough in his locker to be able to get the job done.
Lineker by decision.
TONY FERGUSON vs. LANDON VANNATA
Since his last loss inside the Octagon back in 2012, Ferguson has been cleaning out the lightweight division one by one, currently on a 7 fight win streak, only two of those victories have gone the distance. “El Cucuy” is a submission specialist with knockout power, which makes him a dangerous opponent for any fighter, let alone one that’s making his UFC debut, but Landon Vannata won’t be any push over. A hot prospect from the Jackson-Winkeljohn gym, Vannata is currently undefeated and will be looking to impress in his first appearance for the UFC. Although Vannata has the tools to cause Ferguson problems, this step up in quality may be too early in his career. Ferguson takes no prisoners when he fights and has too many weapons in his arsenal for the young Vannata to overcome. This should be an early night’s work for Ferguson as he continues to knock down the door for a title shot.
Ferguson by submission.
TIM BOETSCH vs. JOSH SAMMAN
It’s never nice when a fighter starts to look their age but that seems to be the case with the 35 year old Boetsch, he hasn’t won a fight in nearly two years and his last three contests have all ended early. Boetsch is an accomplished wrestler who holds the power in his hands to quickly turn the tide in a fight but he has found it difficult to make any progress in a stacked middleweight division. Samman, who is 7 years Boetsch’s junior and has a 5 inch reach advantage, comes into this contest on the back of his first loss in 4 outings for the UFC. The Ultimate Fighter semi-finalist has solid hands and will look to keep Boetsch at a distance with the jab and pick him off. Samman’s three wins in the UFC have all finished early and I expect this fight to be no different.
Samman by TKO.
DANIEL OMIELANCZUK vs. OLEKSIY OLIYNYK
These men hold an incredible combined total of 50 submission victories between them, albeit 41 of them belong to the 39 year old Oliynyk. A battle of the Eastern European heavyweights, this contest has all the ingredients to be Fight of the Night. Both men can end a fight in an instant and both will be eager to add their names to the rankings list. Omielanczuk is currently 3-2 in the UFC, his two losses have come against men that Oliynyk has stopped, Oliynyk also holds a 6 inch reach advantage and although he is 6 years older than Omielanczuk, he has looked far more superior in his UFC career, so far. I believe Oliynyk will get the victory but in what fashion is the difficult question, Omielanczuk has never being KO’d or submitted. I suppose there’s a first time for everything though.
Oliynyk by submission.
KYLE NOKE vs. KEITA NAKAMURA
An interesting welterweight clash with both men coming off decision losses, Noke lost in a close contest to Alex Morono at UFC 195 and the Australian veteran will be keen to return to winning ways. Nakamura’s last fight was a loss to Tom Breese in February, a fight that Breese was expected to win with ease but Nakamura made him work for the victory. This contest will be played out on the mat if Nakamura has his way, as he looks to hold Noke down and beat him up, Noke will need to be on his toes and scramble every time Nakamura shoots. The Japanese star is a strong wrestler and holds 17 submission victories, if the opportunity arises he will sink in a choke but Noke should be experienced enough to not leave any openings. I expect Nakamura to take Noke down and keep him there for the night.
Nakamura by decision.
LOUIS SMOLKA vs. BEN NGUYEN
The winner of this bout will be adding their name to the list of challengers for the 125 pound throne. Smolka’s last outing was a submission victory against Paddy Holohan at UFC Dublin, a victory in which he impressed in it from start to finish. “Da Last Samurai” has finished all but 3 of his 10 victories early and has only the one loss on his record, a close split decision loss to Chris Cariaso two years ago. Nguyen on the other hand, hasn’t tasted defeat in 6 years and is currently 2-0 in the UFC. “Ben 10” has only had two of his victories go the distance so this fight holds the potential for an early night for someone. I have been impressed with the progress of the 24 year old Smolka and I think he continues his rise up the ladder here with a victory over South Dakota born Nguyen. It will be a tough nights work but I think Smolka grinds out the victory.
Smolka by decision.
Best of the Rest.
Lauren Murphy vs. Katlyn Chookagian
Murphy to win.
Eric Spicely vs. Sam Alvey
Alvey to win.
Cortney Casey vs. Cristina Stanciu
Stanciu to win.
Scott Holtzman vs. Cosy Pfister
Pfister to win.
Rani Yahya vs. Matthew Lopez
Lopez to win.
Devin Clark vs. Alex Nicholson
Clark to win.
Bet of the Day.
The adventurous bet: all 12 predictions in an accumulator is about 499/1
The conservative bet: a double on Pfister and Smolka is 6/1 add Nakamura in and its 15/1
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