-415 Vicente Luque (8-5-1) vs +345 Alvarado Herrera (9-3)
Vicente Luque: A stand out from the ATT vs Blackzilians season of TUF, Vicente Luque has proven to be one of the more well rounded young prospects in the welterweight division. Luque avenged his TUF loss to Hayder Hassan in December when he submitted Hassan with a anaconda choke in the first round of their rematch.
At only 24 Luque has a wealth of big fight experience including a win over rising star Thiago Marreta Santos. This will be Luque’s third UFC bout, where he will look to improve to 2-1 and make a name for himself at 170 pounds as a young gun on the rise.
Alvarado Herrera: “Chango” did not overly impress on his time in the TUF Latin America 2 house, losing his first fight to Gilbert Aldana in a brutal decision that saw him take a large amount of damage. But when he got the call to fight on the finale Herrera did not disappoint. He only needed :30 to dispatch Panamanian youngster Vernon Ramos with a well placed right hook behind the ear.
Jackson/Winklejohn trained Herrera showcased dangerous knockout power in his last fight and displayed solid take downs in his fight on the show with Aldana. The 26 year old Mexican will be facing the toughest test of his pro career, one that could introduce him to a world wide audience as a contender.
The Fight: I see this fight playing out pretty quickly, Luque will get the better of the striking early on, prompting a sloppy shot from Herrera that will leave him susceptible to Luque’s go-to Anaconda choke, ending it in the first. Luque Anaconda 1st
+155 Marco Beltran (7-3) vs -180 Reginaldo Vieira (14-3)
Marco Beltran: Beltran who was a semi-finalist on the first season of TUF Latin America has found early success following his stint on the reality show. 2-0 Thus far Beltran has picked up wins over Marlon Vera and TUF China winner Ning Guangyou.
Beltran has been training alongside his season’s winner Jair Rodriguez in Chicago under the guidance of Izzy Martinez. Jair’s influence showed in Beltran’s last performance against Guanyou, Beltran controlled much of the stand up with a wide array of flashy kicks and solid take down defense.
Beltran will have the opportunity to take out another TUF champ while moving to 3-0, potentially setting up contender fights in the near future.
Reginaldo Vieira: Vieira made the most of his second chance on TUF Brazil 4 when he captured the seasons crown after being brought back following a loss in his opening match. Vieira narrowly won a back and forth slug fest over Dileno Lopez to become the season’s winner.
This will be Vieira’s first action since his victory in August of 2015. At 33 years of age Vieira won’t have time to make mistakes like some of his younger cast mates. Winning the show started him off in a good position for success, but Vieira will still need to string together a few wins to show he is a contender at bantamweight.
The Fight: Beltran’s improved striking bodes well for his future success, but his strength has been an issue in the past. His long frame doesn’t leave much room for muscle if he is going to continue to make the 135 pound weight limit.
Vieira has found success overpowering opponents in the clinch and on the ground, expect to see him win this in a grueling three round decision. Vieira Unanimous Decision
-235 Gilbert Burns ( 10-1) vs +200 Lukasz Sajewski ( 13-1)
Gilbert Burns: 4x BJJ World Champion Gilbert Burns’s transition to MMA started a flawless 10-0, but in his last outing Burns came up short in a one sided decision to dangerous Dagestani striker Rashid Magomedov. Once thought to be a potential title contender, many holes in Burns’s stand up were exposed by Magomedov tempering some of the excitement behind the 29 year old. Burns trains with Henry Hooft and the Blackzilians, a combo sure to improve the striking deficiencies in Burns’s game.
Burns will look to climb his way back up the 155 pound ladder and regain some of the hype that he had previously accrued.
Lukasz Sajewski: Polish grappling standout Sajewski had a disappointing UFC debut last June. Sajewski lost a frustrating unanimous decision to Nick Hein, in a fight that saw him plodding forward the entire time but failing to land any significant strikes or secure a take down all the while eating heavy counter strikes from Hein.
After a lackluster debut Sajewski has been giving a very tough test in Burns, if he can defeat the 2nd degree BJJ black belt, Sajewski will be considered one of the brightest prospects in the lightweight division.
The Fight: This is a nightmare match up for the Polish prospect, Sajewski excells in getting opponents down and submitting them, something that will not happen against Burns.
On the feet Burns has been improving greatly, and if the Hein fight is any indication of Sajewski’s stand up he will be in for a long night.
Burns will work his striking early before securing a take down and securing an arm bar victory in the second. Burns Armbar 2nd
-170 Felipe Arantes (17-7-1 2 NC) vs +145 Jerrod Sanders (15-3- 1NC)
Felipe Arantes: Chute Boxe trained Felipe Arantes recently made the decision to cut to bantamweight after a pedestrian 3-3-1 UFC record dating back to 2011. In his first bantamweight match up Arantes was match up with Tri-Star vet Yves Jouban. Arantes won the bout via arm bar in the first round, but it was far from an ideal debut. Jouban took Arantes down easily and landed some heavy shots before falling victim to the arm lock.
Arantes has the skills to make a run in the shallow bantamweight division, but if he hasn’t improved his wrestling and take down defense he wont be able to crack the top 15. This match up against Sanders (who is a former division I wrestler), will be a good measuring stick for Arantes potential in the bantamweight division.
Jerrod Sanders: Former division I All American at Oklahoma State. Jerrod Sanders has had rough start to his UFC career. 1-1-1 thus far his fights have had some unusual situations that make judging his potential difficult.
Sanders lost his debut fight to Yosdenis Cedeneo in a fight he took on two weeks notice, at lightweight (two weight classes up from his more natural bantamweight). In his bantamweight debut Sanders was submitted via Guillotine choke in :39 secs by Pedro Munhoz, however the fight was overturned to a no contest when Munhoz teste positive for PEDs.
Sanders will have a full camp at his natural weight class in this fight. His submission defense will be tested in this match up, if he can score a victory here his wrestling abilities could create some interesting match ups int he bantamweight’s top 15.
The Fight: This is an intriguing match up, each fighters skills plays into their opponents weakness. Arantes wrestling defense has been a glaring weakness in his fights and Sanders’s has shown to be susceptible to the submission on several occasions.
I will go with Sanders to implement his game plan and evade the submission attempts of Arantes en route to a decision. Sanders Unanimous Decision
+190 Russell Doane (14-5) vs -225 Pedro Munhoz (11-2- 1NC)
Russell Doane: Next generation Hawaiian scrapper, Russell Doane, has shown to be proficient in all areas of the fight game. 2-2 in his young UFC journey, Doane has been on the losing end of two very close decisions and could very easily be 4-0.
Doane has the skills to be a contender at bantamweight but may be fighting to save his spot on the roster after dropping his last two fights. Not many young fighters survive losing three fights in a row.
Pedro Munhoz: “The Young Punisher” has fought much better than his 1-2- 1 UFC record might suggest. His losses came close decisions going toe to toe with two of the bantemweight’s best Raphael Assuncao and Jimmie Rivera.
In spite of his high level BJJ credentials, the former RFA bantamweight champion has spent most of his time in the octagon trading blows on the feet. If Munhoz can find ways to get his bouts to the ground he is capable of doing some damage at 135.
The Fight: This is yet another fine job of matchmaking by resident small guy matchmaker Sean Shelby. Both of these fighters have been involved in some very close decisions and match up very well on paper.
Doane will have the wrestling advantage but once it hits the mat, Munhoz is a tremendous threat off of his back. The two are very evenly matched in the striking department and should engage in some epic exchanges on the feet.
Doane will be able to pull off a razor thin decision by scoring on the mat with ground and pound, top control and painstaking submission defense. Doane Split Decision
-250 Anthony Birchak (12-3) vs +210 Dileno Lopes (19-2)
Anthony Birchak: Arizona based, former division II wrestling standout Anthony Birchak, has fought like a veteran striker in his past octagon bouts, scoring an impressive knockout of former title challenger Joe Soto and going toe to toe with star on the rise Thomas Almedia.
Birchak may need to go back to his wrestling base if he is going to find success at the the highest level of the sport. He would also benefit from training outside of his self run gym and train with one of the many elite camps in the Southwest to work with top level sparing partners on a regular basis.
Dileno Lopes: Lopes came up just shy of winning TUF Brazil 4, losing an action packed finale to Reginaldo Vieria last August. This will be the Nova Uniao fighters first bout since his runner up performance on the show.
Lopes is an exciting fighter who rarely sees the final bell, of his 20 professional fight only 3 have gone the distance. With his go for broke style and immense heart, Lopes should be a face we see for years to come in the bantamweight division.
The Fight: Both fighters are high level grapplers, which is why this one will stay on the feet. Birchak will own the technical and reach advantage in the stand up, while Lopes will have the advantage in the power department.
This difference maker in this bout will be Lopes’s ability to absorb damage and his unwavering fighting spirit. Lopes will rally after falling behind early and pull out a close decision. Lopes Unanimous Decision