CURRENT RECORD 117-64-2
After a long three week break the UFC finally returns, this time in Mexico City for the Ultimate Fighter Latin America Finale. Headlining Fight Night 98 will be former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos and Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson. This is Dos Anjos first fight since relinquishing his title back in July while “El Cucuy’s” last outing was a fight of the night victory against Lando Vannata, both of these men have title aspirations and a victory here could propel them to that summit. In the co-main event, UFC newcomer and Polish prospect Marcin Held makes his debut against the all action Diego Sanchez in what should be one of the standout fights on the card. Also taking place on Saturday night is the TUF finale between Martin Bravo and Claudio Puelles as they battle it out to win a six figure contract with the UFC and be crowned this year’s Latin America Ultimate Fighter, as I’ve never previously done it before, I won’t be predicting the outcome of this match up. Elsewhere on the card, in the featherweight division Ricardo Lamas finally gets paired up as he takes on Charles Oliveria, lightweights Benil Dariush and Rashid Magomedov will come to blows and in the women’s straw-weight division Heather Jo Clark fights the undefeated Mexican Alexa Grasso. This should be an interesting night of fights not to be missed, so be sure to be tuned in.
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.
RAFAEL DOS ANJOS vs. TONY FERGUSON
This is a fight a long time in the making, Ferguson in particular has been chasing RDA for a while and despite there being no title on the line, this fight should certainly live up to the hype. Former champion Dos Anjos had look like a rejuvenated fighter before surrendering his belt to Eddie Alvarez at Fight Night 90, prior to that loss he had been on a five fight win streak; taking the scalps of top lightweight contenders Nate Diaz, Henderson, Pettis and Cerrone. Losing to Alvarez by TKO will surely have a knock on effect and coming up against an opponent who is so versatile with his strikes, RDA will need to ensure his often stagnated feet start bobbing and weaving away from the incoming attacks. Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson comes here on the back of a hard fought submission victory against newcomer Lando Vannata to extend his winning streak to eight; five of which have come by submission. Ferguson is an aggressive fighter who has unpredictable attacks; he is extremely well rounded and can finish a fight from nearly anywhere. This fight will be the hardest contest for Ferguson thus far but if he can stuff the takedowns and use his six inch reach advantage he could potentially put RDA away early. The altitude in Mexico will certainly have a part to play in most of the fights on this card but “El Cucuy” travelled out months ago to ensure he is well adapted. I expect there will be worrying moments for Ferguson here, Vannata showed how to rock him last time out but I think Ferguson will fight from the outside and wear RDA down, from there I think he’ll sink in a submission, most likely his favoured D’Arce choke.
Ferguson by submission.
DIEGO SANCHEZ vs. MARCIN HELD
Whenever Diego Sanchez is involved you know the fight is going to be fought at the fastest pace possible. Sanchez has a gas tank for days; he relentlessly pushes forward and doesn’t mind eating a punch on the way in if it means he lands one too. Sanchez has been blowing hot and cold for the last few years and hasn’t recorded back to back victories since 2011, his last outing was a TKO loss to Joe Lauzon at UFC 200 and he will need to return to his best to handle debutant Marcin Held. “The Polish Prodigy” recently signed from Bellator and despite only being 24 years of age he has managed to build an impressive résumé of 22-4. Held is an exceptional submission grappler and once he takes you down it can be near impossible to get back up. Held’s one weakness may be in his stand up, he isn’t the most prolific puncher but he has youth on his side and he will improve in time. This should be a straight forward fight for Held if he gets Sanchez down but the experience and cardio of Sanchez has me thinking he could snatch a decision victory. I’m going to leave my hand out to be slapped and go with Diego Sanchez.
Sanchez by decision.
RICARDO LAMAS vs. CHARLES OLIVERIA
After the late cancelation to UFC Manila, Ricardo Lamas finally gets a replacement fight against Charles Oliveria. Lamas has only fought once in the past year and that was a decision loss to Max Holloway at UFC 199, “The Bully” has been a main stay in the featherweight top ten rankings and is a resilient fighter that grinds out decision wins. Charles “do Bronx” Oliveria is an exceptional submission artist who is rarely in a dull fight, 19 of his 21 wins have finished early. Oliveria is dangerous on top or working off his back, he finds submission from near impossible positions and this could be a danger for the wrestling of Lamas. If this fight stays on the feet Oliveria will have a slight reach advantage but it is the speed at which he strikes that Lamas should fear more. Lamas lungs will be well equipped for the air in Mexico, should this fight go the distance but I think Oliveria finds a way to finish this one early. Lamas has never been submitted in his career so I’m going for a first time submission loss and Oliveria getting his hand raised.
Oliveria by submission.
BENIL DARIUSH vs. RASHID MAGOMEDOV
Benil Dariush is the dark horse of the lightweight division, currently ranked #7 with a record of 13-2; he holds an impressive victory over Michael Johnson and most recently KO’d James Vick in the first round. “Benny” is a crisp boxer with a great ground game and will no doubt test the skills of Rashid Magomedov on the mat. Magomedov is another Dagestan import who has steadily improved since joining the UFC ranks in 2014, with a record of 19-1 his only defeat came six years ago. Magomedov is a handful on the feet and his punches are thrown with pin point accuracy, he has nine knockout victories to his name and if Dariush doesn’t keep his chin tucked in he could become number ten. This is an intriguing fight as these fighters are well matched; the early exchanges could hold the key to where this fight will take place and the outcome. I think Dariush as a fighter is under rated and he could make a statement with a victory here, Magomedov is always only one clean connection away but I feel Dariush will do enough to grind out another win.
Dariush by decision.
ALEXA GRASSO vs. HEATHER JO CLARK
Alexa Grasso finally gets to fight under the UFC banner, the 23 year old Mexican is currently undefeated winning 8 straight, 4 by KO and she will be aiming to do her country proud on Saturday. On the other side of the Octagon is Heather Jo Clark who will be looking to silence the Mexican crowd; the American is an experienced fighter who, although never lighting the world on fire, always brought the fight. This will be a tough ask for Clark, as she is 13 years Grasso’s senior and her body has been through some wars, so taking on a fresh, hungry fighter in her own back yard will be a tough task. Nonetheless Clark will give it her all and she has shown she can hang with some of the finest strikers in the division, she will look to frustrate Grasso in the clinch and if she finds success, it could be the extra motivation she needs. Despite that, I still expect Grasso to go out and finish this one early and to send the Mexican crowd home happy.
Grasso by KO.
Best of the Rest.
Erik Perez vs. Felipe Arantes
Arantes to win.
Marco Beltran vs. Joe Soto
Beltran to win.
Erick Montano vs. Max Griffin
Montano to win.
Henry Briones vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade
Andrade to win.
Sam Alvey vs. Alex Nicholson
Alvey to win.
Marco Polo Reyes vs. Jason Novelli
Reyes to win.
Enrique Barzola vs. Chris Avila
Barzola to win.
Bet of the Day.
The adventurous bet: all 12 predictions in an accumulator is about 900/1.
The inbetweener bet: Ferguson, Grasso, Alvey and Oliveria to win is 6/1.
The conservative bet: Ferguson by submission is 7/2.
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