-425 #9 Louis Smolka (11-1) vs. +355 Brandon Moreno (11-3)
Louis Smolka: “Da Last Samurai” looked like a fighter ready for a title shot in his last outing. He used high level BJJ and pinpoint ground and pound to destroy ultra talented prospect Ben Ngyuen in his Native North Dakota.
Smolka is riding a four fight win streak and apart from a controversial split decision loss to Chris Cariaso he has been flawless in the UFC. The Hawaii native is currently ranked ninth but could leap frog his way to a title shot in a Flyweight division that is desperate for new challengers.
Brandon Moreno: 22 year old WFF champion Brandon Moreno received a golden opportunity stepping in for the injured Sergio Pettis on a few weeks notice. He has made a name for himself in the rough and tumble Southwest fight circuit where he is riding a eight fight win streak and has compiled an 11-3 record over the last five years.
Moreno almost shocked the world on this season of TUF. Ranked 16th overall, he exchanged valiantly with the number 1 overall Alexandre Pantoja before falling victim to a RNC in the second. However, Moreno impressed the UFC brass in defeat, enough to earn him this main card debut fight.
The Fight: Smolka is historically a slow starter so don’t be surprised if Moreno comes out strong. But the big show experience will quickly kick in and Smolka will take over, ending this one quickly with a choke. Smolka Guillotine 1st
Josh Burkman (29-13-0 1NC) vs. Zak Ottow (13-3)
Josh Burkman: “The People’s Warrior” is coming off of an extremely hard fought decision loss to Paul Felder. Burkman came out strong in the first with crisp boxing combos and smooth level changes to score takedowns, but Felder made mid-fight adjustments to his attack and was able to outstrike Burkman in the second and third.
Now in his second stint in the UFC, Burkman has not had much success this time around going 1-3-0 1NC, but he has been entertaining in every fight. At 36, Burkman has over a decade of experience fighting the sport’s elite, he is one of the few fighters still on the roster from the early TUF days and has proven that he will be a tough out for anyone they put in front of him.
Zak Ottow: 13-3 Milwaukee prospect Zak Ottow got the call a few weeks back to step in for an injured Bobby Green. Ottow trains at his own gym Pura Vida BJJ/MMA with Rick Glen who just debuted against Evan Dunham two weeks ago. His last victory was a decision over RoufusSport prospect Craig Eckelberg.
Ottow’s base is wrestling, but he has shown well-rounded attacks in his previous fights. His three losses have all come to well known fighters: Jacob Volkman, Mike Rhodes and Zach Micklewright. He is a large muscular lightweight, it will be interesting to see how his cardio holds up in his debut.
The Fight: Burkman’s striking has improved by leaps and bounds from his first stint in the Octagon and his wrestling has always been his strong suit. Ottow does not match up well in this fight, Burkman is a tough guy to take down and he will have a even harder time hanging with Burkman on the feet. Burkman Unanimous Decision
#11 Will Brooks (18-1) vs. Alex Oliveira (14-3-1 1NC)
Will Brooks:“Ill” Will Brooks made his long awaited UFC debut last July against striking specialist and TUF champion Ross Pearson. It was not a walk in the park, but Brooks came away with a clear cut unanimous decision. The win immediately placed Brooks in the lightweight top 15.
The former Bellator lightweight champ is one of the biggest signings of 2016 and should be a top 5 contender before the year is out. Widely considered one of the top lightweights in any organization, Brooks combo of speed, power, dominant wrestling and endless cardio allow him to push a pace that is going to be tough for any lightweight to keep up with.
Alex Oliveira: “Cowboy” rebounded from his main event loss to “Cowboy” Cerrone by picking up a decision victory over Blackhouse’s James Moontasri. Oliveira gave the tae kwon do expert no space, smothering him up against the cage and landing punishing ground and pound on the mat.
Oliveira displayed high level grappling in his last fight, which is bad news for the lightweight division, because up until the Moontasri fight, everyone thought Oliveira was just a super high-level striker with freaky reach. This new wrinkle to his game has made Oliveira one of the more interesting guys to keep an eye on at lightweight.
The Fight: Oliveira showcased solid wrestling in his last bout, but Brooks’s wrestling is on another level. He will need to commit all of his energy to defending take downs, which will leave him vulnerable to Brooks’ improving boxing. I do not expect a finish but Brooks should land some damage on the feet every round before securing the takedowns. Brooks Unanimous Decision
#3 John Lineker (28-7) vs. #10 John Dodson (19-7)
John Lineker: Brazilian bomber John Lineker put the division on notice in his last fight by knocking out one the division’s longtime contenders Michael McDonald in the first round. Lineker had no problems with his opponents in the flyweight division, he was 8-2 in his first ten fights. But in that period he missed weight four times and it was clear that the cut to 125 was too much for the stout striker.
Lineker missed weight for the fifth time at the weigh-ins today. He has unprecedented striking power for a smaller fighter, but may find himself forced to move up to featherweight, which would put the 5’2″ Lineker at a serious height disadvantage. That being said, he is ranked number three and could make a strong case for a title shot with an impressive knockout, if the UFC is willing to look the other way when it comes to his weight issues.
John Dodson: Dodson also made quite the statement in his bantamweight debut, knocking out no-nonsense Armenian judoka Manny Gamburyan in 0:37. The Jackson/Wink fighter proved he could hang with the 135 pounders when he won TUF 14, where he blew through the bantamweight field, which included former champion T.J. Dillashaw.
The only man to defeat Dodson in the past seven years is Demetrious Johnson, both times for the flyweight title. Realizing that his chances of getting a third title shot anytime soon are not great, Dodson decided to test his mettle at 135. With a win over number three Lineker and his previous win over number one ranked Dillashaw, Dodson’s path to a title shot may be very brief.
The Fight: The fact that this is a five round affair is a gift from the mma gods, because we are going to see Dodson paint a masterpiece. His elusive style is built to overcome heavy strikers like Lineker. Dodson will drag the drained Lineker into deep waters where “Hands of Stone” will drown. Dodson TKO 5th