-145 Godofredo Pepey (13-4) vs. +125 Mike De La Torre (14-5)
Godofredo Pepey: TUF Brazil runner up Godofredo Pepey recently had his three fight win streak snapped by Darrin Elkins, who was able to smother the explosive Pepey and grind out a decision win. Pepey’s three previous wins were all Performance of the Night finishes, the two submissions and flying knee knockout were a small tease of what the 29 year old Brazilian is capable of.
Since his entrance into the UFC in 2012 Pepey has been very streaky, going 4-4 in that period. He has shown flashes of brilliance, followed by performances that lacked technical proficiency and showed poor usage of fundamentals. Pepey will began his climb back into relevance in the featherweight division and look to pocket his fourth fight bonus in doing so.
Mike De La Torre: A product of Glendale Arizona’s MMA Lab, Mike De La Torre will be coming off a win last November over South Korean Yui Chui Nam. His long layoff is not a result of any serious injuries, the UFC has just had trouble making a fight stick for “El Cucuy”.
De La Torre is 2-2-1 in his five UFC bouts, but has been unable to string together consecutive wins. Five UFC fights is usually adequate enough time to identify the potential of a fighter, however due to a few unique circumstances in his fights it’s difficult to gauge where De La Torre stands in the division.This fight is a extremely crucial one for De La Torre, he could easily use this as a launching pad to the top 15 or it could very easily be his last UFC fight depending on which guy shows up.
The Fight: This should be a stand up war, both guys possess KO power and prefer to hash it out on the feet. One may be mislead by De La Torre’s TKO loss to Maxi Blanco, though he was rocked, the fight was clearly prematurely stopped by Yves Lavigne.
Pepey is still the superior striker, but De La Torre’s chin will hold up better than most expect. Pepey Unanimous Decision
-550 #15 Thiago Santos ( 13-4) vs. +420 Eric Spicely (8-2)
Thiago Santos: “Maretta” had his red hot winning ways tempered by Gegard Mousasi at UFC 200, when Mousasi knocked out Santos in the opening round. Even though Santos was unsuccessful in his last fight (which was short notice) he stock did not plummet as much as one might expect. Possibly due to his devastating knockouts of Steve Bosse and Nate Marquardt still on the mind of pollsters.
32 year old Santos is currently in the top form of his career and hopefully he can get another top 10 opponent with a full camp if he can come out of Saturday night’s match up with a victory.
Eric Spicely: Widely considered the best Jujitsu fighter on the 23rd season of TUF, Eric Spicely showed high level grappling on the show earning a spot in the semi-finals where he would lose to eventual winner Andrew Sanchez. Spicely lost his UFC debut in Sioux Falls when Sam Alvey submitted him with a standing guillotine.
Spicely made a name for himself in the New England based CES promotion where he was 8-0 with five submissions. He will take his second fight in three months in an attempt to erase his recent loss to Alvey from the public’s mind.
The Fight: Joe Silva either thinks really high of Eric Spicely’s skills or he hates him as a person. No TUF competitor has been given two more difficult opponents following their reality show stints. Santos has far too much firepower for Spicely, he will get him out their early with a hard kick to the body. However, for Spicely’s sake, I hope he receives another shot against someone he is a little more evenly matched with. Santos TKO 1st
-130 Francisco Trinaldo (20-4) vs. +110 Paul Felder (12-2)
Francisco Trinaldo: “Massaranduba” is mma’s resident Rodney Dangerfield, no respect for the Brazilian who, despite being on a six fight win streak (second longest at lightweight), has failed to crack the division’s top 15. In his last outing Trinaldo won a Fight of The Night back and forth war with Yancey Medeiros at UFC 198.
Trinaldo has evolved from a heavy grinding wrestler to a all around threat, outstriking Ross Pearson and knocking out Chad Laprise, both considered striking specialist. He is a huge for lightweight and competed two weight classes up at middleweight on TUF Brazil. I’ve said it before, but it would be impossible to keep Trinaldo out of the lightweight top 15 if he can come away with a victory here.
Paul Felder: Philly’s Felder has fought his way back into significant main card match-ups by winning his first two fights of 2016. 2015 was not nearly as prosperous for “The Irish Dragon”, he was 1-2 and his future in the UFC did not look to be a sure thing.
Felder is in the top five of active mma strikers, as displayed in his Fight of The Night battle with Edson Barboza, who currently at the pinnacle of punchers in the sport. The 2nd degree tae kwon do black belt is game to strike with anyone in the division right now and is a BJJ bluebelt under Renzo Gracie and rapidly improving on the ground.
The Fight: Trinaldo is not going to win a striking match, Felder is too technical and too skilled to get caught by his looping shots. Trinaldo will have a significant strength advantage which he should utilize to clinch Felder and score takedowns. However, Felder is an expert at landing hard shots in very small spaces. It will be war, but Felder will be able to use his superior foot work and angles to pull off the upset in Trinaldo’s hometown. Felder Unanimous Decision
Roy Nelson (22-13) vs. Antonio Silva (19-9-0 1 NC)
Roy Nelson: Roy Nelson’s last fight was very un-Roy Nelson-like, often criticized for not utilizing his high level grappling and engaging in slugfests, Nelson fought a smart fight against the extremely heavy handed Derrick Lewis. He controlled 80 percent of the fight with clinching and ground control and was rewarded with a split decision loss.
It’s unclear whether the fans and promotion want “Big Country” to just go toe-to-toe with everyone or fully utilize his fighting arsenal. What is clear is that Nelson will lay it all on the line in every one of his fights and at 40 he should have a spot on the UFC roster until he decides to call it a day.
Antonio Silva: “Bigfoot” Silva’s career has been on a rapid descent since his 2013 title fight defeat to Cain Velasquez. 1-4-0 with 1 NC in that period, he has been in some epic battles in these past few fights, but has also had a few less epic fights, like his :16 knockout to Stefan Struve this past May.
After dropping four of his last five, 37 year old Silva will need to prove he is still able to hang with the best fighters in the world. He undoubtedly has the skill to compete with the UFC’s elite, however, a decade of taking punches to the head from professional punchers can effect a mans motor skills, even if that head is the size of “The Great Pumpkin”.
The Fight: This should be a stand up battle, because these two are equally matched on the ground. Nelson has displayed an inhuman ability to absorb damage. “Bigfoot’s” chin has looked less supernatural lately and the chances are high that Nelson will find his massive chin sometime throughout the fight. Nelson Knockout 2nd
-460 Renan Barao (35-4-0 1NC) vs. +360 Phillipe Nover (12-6-1)
Renan Barao: After losing his shot at reclaiming his bantamweight title from T.J. Dilashaw, Barao decided to test the waters of the featherweight division. His 145 debut was a rough one, Barao went toe-to-toe with knockout artist Jeremy Stephens and came out on the wrong side of a unanimous decision.
The one time pound for pound champ is going through a rare rough patch in his career. He has dropped three of his last four, which is not to say his skills are declining, but in a “what have you done for me lately” sport like mma, fans are quick to write off fighters who lose multiple fights in a row, even if they did win the previous 32 fights in a row.
Phillipe Nover: TUF: season 8 standout Phillipe Nover is also new to the featherweight division, except he is moving down from 155 where he fought his first 16 fights. His first two fights have both been split decisions, one win and one loss.
This will be Nover’s second stint in the UFC, he is 1-4 overall and coming off of a loss, it is unprecedented for a fighter in his situation to receive a co-main event fight. That being said, Nover has an incredible opportunity in front of him this will be the biggest fight in his career by a long shot.
The Fight: Nover is the bigger man in this fight and has made great strides to improve his wrestling. If he was to have success in this fight it would be through muscling the smaller Barao up against the cage and taking him down. However the skill differential is so massive that Barao will be able to overcome the size advantage. Barao Unanimous Decision
Cris Cyborg (16-1-0 1 NC) vs. Lina Lansberg (6-1)
Cris Cyborg: The uncrowned UFC women’s featherweight champion made her UFC debut earlier this year against Leslie Smith and it went as most of her fights do, quickly and violently. Cyborg stopped Smith in the first with strikes, Smith protested vehemently, but the ref did her a huge favor ending that fight when he did.
Cyborg has not really faced a challenge in her professional career other than her debut loss. The only real question about her future is whether she can cut that last five pounds and fight for the bantamweight title.
Lina Lansberg: Cage Warriors bantamweight champion Lina Lansberg will get her call up to the big show riding a six fight win streak, four of which she won via stoppage due to strikes. She recently had her first featherweight bout, but has fought most of her career at 135 pounds, so she should have no problem fighting at 140 pounds.
The Swedish muay thai champion has cleared out the Europe and Scandinavian mma scene, she will now test her dangerous clinch and deadly elbows against the best in the world, starting with the pound for pound best of them all.
The Fight: This is hands down the most difficult debut of any fighter in UFC history. Octagon jitters are one thing, but when your first time in the Octagon is against the pound-for-pound best fighter in your sport they are more likely to be Octagon trembles. Lansberg is a tough striker but she is entering a world of pain. Cyborg Knockout 1st