Kevin Lee (11-2) vs Efrain Escudero (25-10)
Kevin Lee: Born and raised in Detroit, the “Motown Phenom” made the decision to leave his hometown following an unsuccessful debut against “Raging” Al Iaquinta. Lee headed south to Vegas where he began training with the “Xtreme Couture” camp. The move seemed to pay dividends as Lee won his next four fights including an impressive rear naked choke submission over “Blackhouse” prospect James Moontasri. Lee stumbled in his last time out when he was stopped by strikes to TUF: Brazil 2 winner Leanardo Santos. 23 year old Kevin Lee is a well rounded prospect with a ton of potential, this match up with Efrain will be a great test for his improving ground game.
Efrain Escudero: Now on his third stint with the UFC, the former TUF:8 winner and TUF: Latin America coach, has compiled a very pedestrian 5-6 record in the UFC with most of his fights going the distance. Efrain has fought hard to get back to the big show and will most likely need this victory to secure his spot in the 155 pound division. Now 30, Efrain’s days of being a prospect and having time to grow are over, if he is ever going to be able to put it all together and make a title run he can’t afford a loss this Saturday night.
The Fight: This is a meeting of fighters at the opposite ends of the spectrum in their career’s. Lee the rising star and Efrain the struggling vet. That being said if Lee hasn’t been drilling his take down defense Efrain has the type of wrestling prowess that could very easily spoil this youngsters ascension up the ranks. Come fight night I beleive Lee’s ground work with Robert Drysdale and the all star crew at Xtreme Couture, coupled with his superior boxing and 7 inch reach advantage will be enough to lead him to victory. Lee Unanimous Decision.
Marcos Rogerio De Lima (13-4-1) vs Clint Hester (11-5)
Marcos Rogerio De Lima: Semi-finalist on TUF: Brazil 3 “Pezao” is a force at 205. De Lima posses explosive power in his punches and kicks ending 10 of his 13 wins by way of KO/TKO, including his first two victories in the octagon over Richardson Moreira and Igor Pokajac. In his last bout “Pezao” lost by rear naked choke to Nikita Krylov in a fight that ended in some controversy when Krylov was able to take De Lima’s back due to a fence grab. De lima has been fine tuning his skills at ATT and is a dangerous match up for all in the light heavyweight division.
Clint Hester: “Headbussa” Clint Hester did not fare too well on his stint in the Ultimate Fighter house, losing his first round fight to Jimmy Quinlan by submission. Following his time on the reality show Hester caught fire, winning his first four bouts in the octagon, displaying vicious striking ability. Hester’s next two fight’s did not go as well, he was stopped due to strikes by fellow TUF alum Robert Whitakker and Vitor Miranda. 6 2″ Hester struggled with his weight cut to 185 pounds and appeared to gas in both of his losses. A reinvigorated Hester has switched camps to train with the Blackzilians and will forgo the draining cut to middleweight. Hester will look to start anew in the light heavyweight division, where he will have an unfamiliar speed advantage and the cardio to go into the later rounds.
The Fight: This will not be the most technical bout, Both Hester and De Lima throw looping haymakers with deadly intentions. De Lima will have the advantage when it comes to the kicks but Hester has displayed some of the best standing elbows in the sport. Neither opponent has shown a proclivity towards ground fighting, so expect a battle in a phone booth here. This could easily go either way, but I love Hester at 205 and think this will be his breakout fight in the stacked division. Hester TKO First
Walt Harris (7-4) vs Cody East (12-1)
Walt Harris: ATT’s Walt “The Big Ticket Harris will be looking for his first win under the UFC banner this Saturday. Harris has been spectacular outside of the octagon going 7-1 with all of his victories coming by KO/TKO, but under the bright lights of the UFC Harris has come up short in all three of his bouts. 6 5” Harris is a converted college basketball player and uses his reach well on the feet. Possibly given this fight as a reward for steeping in for an injured Daniel Omielańczuk against Soa Palelei , Harris will need to make the most of it, not many fighters on the UFC roster have started 0-4 and gone on to have a successful career.
Cody East: “The Freight Train” has been near flawless in his MMA career, compiling a record of 12-1 and capturing the Legacy Fighting Championships Heavyweight belt along the way. When Dana White and the Looking For A Fight posse showed up at East’s LFC title defense in February, East made the most of it knocking out challenger Kevin Asplund in :40 with a head kick. East trains with in Albuquerque with Jackson/Winlejohn fight team, he is the fourth fighter to be discovered from the online show and will look to follow in his predecessors path with a win in his debut.
The Fight: These two big men are both surprisingly light on their feet and posses one punch finishing power. This fight will be much more competitive than there recent records may suggest. Harris will need to stay on the outside, work the body with his heavy kicks and maximize his height advantage. East will want to get in close and unleash his knockout power that got him to the big show. This will be the fight where Harris is able to put it all together and perform like the stud that he has been outside of the UFC. Harris KO 2nd
Glaico Franca (14-3) vs James Vick (7-0)
Glacio Franca: Luta Livre practitioner “Nego” Franco will return to the cage for the first time following his remarkable run on TUF: Brazil 4 where he submitted all three of his opponents by rear naked choke, including Nova Uniao product Fernando Bruno to win the Finale. Franca displayed dominant grappling on the show, but will not shy away from a stand up battle owning 6 KO/TKO stoppages in his four year career. At only 25 years of age Franca has shown an all around game that has many fans excited at this prospect’s future.
James Vick: TUF: Live competitor impressed in his time on the show with a flying knee knockout of Taekwondo virtuoso Daron Cruickshank. Following the show Vick has been even more impressive winning his first four fights in the cage. The former golden gloves boxer trains with semi cult like jujitsu guru Master Lloyd Irvin in Maryland and it has paid off, Vick submitted two very game wrestlers in Ramsey Nijem and Jake Matthews both with a no arm in power guillotine. Vick will try to keep his undefeated record intact and set up some big fights at lightweight.
The Fight: Franca is tall for a lightweight at 6 0″ but will be at a rare height disadvantage in this bout when he faces the tallest lightweight on the roster 6 3″ James Vick. If the fight stays on the feet Vick will have a clear cut advatage, if it goes to the ground Vick has shown to be dangerous off his back. I don’t see a clear path to victory in this match up for Franca. Vick will keep his undeafted record intact with superior footwork and defensive grappling. Vick Unanimous Decision
Carla Esparza (11-3) vs Juliana Lima (8-2)
Carla Esparza: Esparza will began the journey back to title contention Saturday night. This will be her first fight back following her loss to Johanna Jedrezejczyk and subsequent shoulder surgery that has kept her sidelined for over a year. Esparza showcased her unrivaled wrestling abilities on TUF: season 20, winning the competition and becoming the first strawweight women’s champion. Esparza is still #2 at 115 ponds but will need to make a statement in her return fight to let all of the up and comers know she is still the girl to beat at strawweight.
Julana Lima: The #14 strawweight Juliana Lima is 2-1 in the octagon, with her only defeat coming at the hands of current titleholder Johanna Jedrezejczyk back in July of 2014. In her two victories Lima has relied heavily on her BJJ, whom trains under legendary 5th degree Black Belt Draculino. However her base is in Muay Thai and will not back down from a stand up affair. A win over the former champ would be huge for this 34 year old who does not have time on her side.
The Fight: Lima will have a four inch height advantage in this bout and will need to use her Muay Thai to keep Esparza at bay and defend the take downs when they come. Lima’s size advantage might lead you to believe she would have the edge in clinch, she will not. Esparza’s wrestling is far to strong for Lima, who will not be able to stay on her feet for long. Esparza will secure multiple take downs en route to the win. Esparza unanimous decision
Danny Roberts (12-1) vs Dominique Steele (14-6)
Danny Roberts: Southpaw Brit Danny Roberts was impressive in his debut against veteran grinder Nathan Coy. In their match up Roberts was getting the better of Coy on the feet and when Coy shot in to get it to the ground Roberts slapped on a triangle that he switched to a straight arm bar and got the tap in the first round. Leaving jolly old England to train with the Blackzilians will give him the elite training partners that he will need to compete at the top of the food chain of MMA. At 12-1 overall Roberts appears to be adept at all stage of the game and might be the real deal.
Dominque Steele: Steele has had mixed results in his UFC fights, he debuted against Zak Cummings (who looks exactly like your stepdad) and was throttled like a disobedient child. Cummings only needed :47 seconds to put a damper on Steele’s debut. In his next fight Steele scored a W over Dong Hyun Kim, no not that Dong Hyun Kim, but still impressive. Steele displayed explosive power ending the fight with a knockout slam reminiscent of Rampage in his heyday.
The Fight: Steele is ultra explosive and possesses raw power, but Roberts will own the technical edge in this bout. Steele will most liklely shoot and shoot early leading to Roberts catching him in some sorta pain inducing lock. Roberts Armbar 1st
Sergio Pettis (13-2) vs Chris Kelades (9-2)
Sergio Pettis: Sergio is 1-1 since moving back down to flyweight where he is best suited. His loss came when he got caught by Ryan Benoit in a fight that he was dominating. Sergio is not quite the showman his elder brother is, but is probably the more technical striker of the two. Both Pettis brothers are the protégés of grizzled kickboxing pioneer Duke Roufus and have helped in making Roufusport one of the premier gyms in MMA. Pettis is a legit contender at flyweight and at only 22 years old there is a strong possibility that he will be involved in multiple title match ups before he hangs em up.
Chris Kelades: “The Greek Assassin” made a splash in his debut when he beat (a little too on the nose) Irishmen Paddy Holohan in a gutsy performance on a five day notice in front of his hometown fans. His follow up bout against 21 year old prospect Ray Borg did no go as well, Kelades was beat up pretty badly before being submitted via Kimura in the third. His last bout he pulled out a razor thin split decision over TUF vet Chris Beal. The Nova Scotia native has a style very similar to his stable mate T.J Grant, Very good BJJ, respectable hands and tough as nails.
The Fight: Kelades will be looking to take this fight to the ground and the if there is one weakness in the Pettis brothers game it is their inability to defend the take down at times. Pettis’s has put in the work on the ground training with renowned wrestling coach Izzy Martinez and possibly the best wrestler in MMA Ben Askren. Kelades’s control once the fight hits the ground is solid, but I think he is going to have trouble closing the distance. Pettis will be able to use his expert footwork and textbook striking to win this one on the cards. Pettis unanimous decision