+135 Alberto Uda (9-1) vs. -155 Marvin Vettori (10-2)
Alberto Uda: Brazilian Alberto Uda could not have asked for a better start in his debut against Jake Collier. Uda shattered Collier’s nose in the first minute of their bout with a knee from the Thai clinch. However Collier was able to shake it off and finished Uda in the second with two spinning back kicks to the mid section.
Uda is a long striker who thrives in the thai clinch and is very slick off of his back, but he is not the strongest middleweight and will need to improve upon his take down defense if he is going to have long term success in the octagon.
Marvin Vettori: Venator FC welterweight champ Marvin Vettori earned his call to the big show by submitting BJJ blackbelt and UFC vet Igor Aruajo in the first round this past May.
Vettori is only 22 and has tons of raw potential, and now he has turned to Master Raphael Cordeiro and his Kings MMA gym to mold him in to a complete fighter. Kings is the perfect destination for the young Italian whose stand up is a glaring weakness.
The Fight: I’m taking Uda in this fight for a number of reasons:
1. Vettori is making his middleweight debut and will not be able to overpower Uda like he has done to previous opponents.
2. First time octagon jitters are real and 22 year old Vettori will be fighting in front of an audience 5x larger than anything he’s experienced in the past.
3. Vettori’s striking is incredibly stiff, I know he’s training with one of the best striking camps around, but he will not be able to improve quickly enough to deal with a striker of Uda’s caliber. Uda TKO 1st
-270 Colby Covington (9-1) vs. +230 Max Griffin (12-2)
Colby Covington: ATT trained All-American wrestler Colby Covington has been nearly flawless in his five octagon performances. Excluding a quick guillotine loss to Warlley Alves, Covington has dominated his opposition with elite wrestling and endless cardio.
28 year old Covington has made no secret about what he intends to do in the cage, he shoots and in the rare case that he does not get the take down, he shoots again. As he works his way up the division Covington will have to tighten up his striking. One trick ponies do not find much success in the top 15, regardless of how good that trick may be.
Max Griffin: California fighter Max Griffin punched his ticket to the big show by knocking out Team Alpha Male veteran David Mitchell claiming the honorary title of “King of Sacramento”. He has compiled a 12-2 record on the California circuit, with the majority of his victories coming by way of knockout.
Griffin relays heavily on his god given power, but once he reaches the upper echelons of the sport his lack of technique will become very apparent if he is not able to get the early stoppage. He has raw ability, but if does not tighten up his open, wild style he will have trouble competing in the UFC.
The Fight: Covington is going to need to work on improving his striking in the octagon at some point, but this is not that point. Covington needs to stick to the tried and true in this match up, shoot frequently and avoid wild exchanges, because they are Griffin’s only chance at a victory. Covington Arm-Triangle 3rd
#7 -130 Neil Magny (18-5) vs. +110 Lorenz Larkin (17-5-0 1 NC)
Neil Magny: Magny is coming off of career defining comeback win over Hector Lombard in which he was dropped very early and punished for the entire first round, only to come out in the second round and get the fight to the ground where he was able to finish off the completely gassed overly muscled Cuban with strikes on the ground.
Magny has won 10 of his last 11 fights including a decision victory over #6 welterweight Kelvin Gastelum. This match-up against the unranked Larkin is really a no win fight for Magny, if he is able to get the W in this one, a top 5 opponent would be fair compensation for his willingness to challenge all comers.
Lorenz Larkin: “The Monsoon” was given this golden opportunity on about five weeks notice filling in for an injured Dong Hyun Kim. Larkin has been on both sides of close decisions in his last two bouts, he won his last fight against Jorge Masvidal and lost his previous match to Albert Tumenov, but both fights could have gone either way.
Larkin’s striking is a proven commodity, but it’s his improved takedown defense that has him back on the radar of the welterweight contenders. If Larkin’s takedown defense is able to hold up there are not many fighters on the UFC roster that are going to be able to outstrike the lighting quick Larkin.
The Fight: Neil Magny is one of the more technically sound fighters in all of the sport, most of his take downs come from him capitalizing on his opponents technical mistakes and not by overpowering them. Larkin has had trouble with strong grapplers like Derek Brunson who were able to muscle him to the mat. But his take down defense is very technically sound.
For these reasons, I see Larkin being able to keep it on the feet and win a striking match over three rounds. Larkin Unanimous Decision
#13 -140 Randa Markos (6-4) vs. +120 Cortney Casey (5-3)
Randa Markos: TUF 20 semi-finalist Randa Markos made a name for herself on the reality show beating Tecia Torres and Felice Herrig, despite being a heavy underdog in both fights. Post TUF Markos is 2-2 in the octagon with her most recent fight being a victory over newcomer Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger.
Markos returned to Michigan Top Team after spending some time with Firas Zahabi and crew at Tristar in Montreal. Markos is a powerful takedown artist who has run into trouble when her takedowns are not there. Her time with Tristar will improve her striking, but she will need to stick to her wrestling roots for the best results.
Cortney Casey: “Cast Iron” Casey will be making a quick turn around after picking up her first UFC victory last month over Romanian Cristina Stanciu. Casey dominated the over matched Stanciu taking her down early and pounding her out with elbows from the mount.
Now 1-2 in under the UFC banner Casey has been must-see TV in every bout thus far, taking home Fight of the Night bonuses in her two defeats to Jojo Caulderwood and Seo Hee Ham. 29 year old Caey is still fairly young in the sport, only training since 2009, but she has improved in every fight and has massive untapped potential.
The Fight: Markos will be far too strong in this bout, she will use her limited striking to close the distance and take Casey down at will, where she will spend the majority of this fight landing blows and controlling Casey from the top.
This fight two years down the road would be more competitive, but as they stand right now Markos will have her way in this match up. Markos Unanimous Decision.
-120 Artem Lobov (12-12-1 1 NC) vs. +100 Chris Avila (5-2)
Artem Lobov: Put here to drink and fight, Russian-born Irish citizen Artem Lobov has not been to successful in the fighting arena lately. Lobov impressed on TUF: 22 scoring three knockouts before losing to 50/50 BJJ wizard Ryan Hall in the finale. He followed the finale loss with another tough decision loss to the bigger, longer and younger Alex White.
0-2 in his UFC career, Artem is in desperate need of this win and will likely be on his way out if he starts his UFC career 0-3. Lobov is a knock out artist, but will need to diversify his game if he hopes to have any chance of success in the big leagues.
Chris Avila: Cesar Garcie trained 22 year old prospect Chris Avila is 5-3 in his young mma career, with his biggest victory coming in his last bout over fellow California prospect Drake Boen via second round TKO.
Avila is not quite the caliber prospect of a 22 year old Nick or Nate Diaz, but he shares many of the same fighting attributes as the notorious Stockton-bred brothers. Avila is scrappy, durable, and has undeniable heart. His striking is sloppy but potent and being a Cesar Gracie fighter we know his BJJ will be on point.
The Fight: Round 1 of SBG vs. Cesar Gracie will be a mismatch in terms of experience with the 25 fight vet Lobov taking on Avilia with only 8 pro fights under his belt. Lobov is a tough fighter to pick in any match up with his uncanny knack for finding ways to lose, but he has the advantage in almost every aspect of this fight.
Avilia is a scrapper and wont go out easy but Lobov’s size strength and experience will be too much for the newcomer over three rounds. Lobov will keep this fight standing and win a one-sided striking match. Lobov Unanimous Decision
#8 -240 Raquel Pennington (7-6) vs. +205 Elizabeth Phillips (5-3)
Raquel Pennington: Raquel “Rocky” Pennington has quietly become one of the best 135 pound women fighters in the world. 4-2 since since her semi-final performance on TUF: 18, Pennington avenged one of her losses to Jessica Andrade when she submitted her with a rear naked choke last September. Her other loss was a razor thin split decision to former champ Holly Holm.
Pennington broke the top 10 for the first time with a win over Bethe Corriea in her last bout and will put herself in position to get a top 5 opponent if she can come away with a victory over Phillips.
Elizabeth Phillips: Washington native Elizabeth Phillips picked up her first UFC victory last July when she scored a unanimous decision over Jessamyn Duke. The win was huge for Phillips who was on the verge of getting cut after she lost her first two UFC fights by split decision.
Phillips trains at Spokane Washington’s Sikjitsu gym, known for producing elite grapplers like Juliana Pena and Michael Chiesa. With partners like these her ground game wont be in question, but in her three UFC fights Phillips’ striking has looked uncontrolled and ineffective , if she has a chance in this fight she will had to have made massive improvements in her stand up fighting.
The Fight: Phillips has been assigned a incredibly tough test for her first fight in over a year. Pennington is light years better than Phillips on the feet, but getting Pennington to the mat has not been an easy task for the ladies of the bantamweight division.
Pennington will win the striking game while defending Phillips early shots and slap on a rear naked choke after Phillips gas tank runs out. Pennington RNC 3rd.
#8 -500 Cody Garbrandt (9-0) vs. #11 +385 Takeya Mizugaki (21-9-2)
Cody Garbrandt: Team Alpha Male’s newest superstar in the making is Ohio’s Cody Garbrandt. Garbrandt made the most of his first main event billing, knocking out undefeated Brazilian Thomas Almeida in the first round of their bout this past May.
Garbrandt’s boxing technique is flawless and he has the wrestling to back his hands up. He has the goods to be the champ and at only 25 years old this is a fighter who’s reign could be GSP-esque.
Takeya Mizugaki: Longtime WEC and UFC veteran, Japanese Takeya Mizugaki recently halted a two fight slide with a decision victory over Gumby stand in George Roop. 7-4 in his UFC service, some of the 32 year old’s highlights include victories over Erik “Goyito” Perez and Bryan Caraway.
Mizugaki’s mma boxing is brilliant, he thrives in the pocket and consistently works the body, an often forgotten skill in mma. He may not have the championship aspirations that he had 2-3 years ago, but he will be a tough fight for anyone competing at 135 pounds.
The Fight: Garbrandt’s recent war of word with current champ Dominick Cruz may suggest he is looking past this fight, which would be a huge mistake on Garbrandt’s part. Mizugaki is the best technical striker that the young fighter has encountered and he may get taught a lesson in mma boxing if he shows up unprepared.
For the bettors Mizugaki is hovering around +385 great odds for a guy who has been in there with the best of the best in the sport. But as far as the fight goes, Garbrandt has too many ways to win this one. If he is losing on the feet, his wrestling is good enough to neutralize Mizugaki on the mat. It will be much closer than most expect but ultimately Garbrandt’s flawless record will stay in tact. Garbrandt Unanimous Decision