-111 Alex Oliveira (14-3-1) vs. -109 Tim Means (26-7-1)
Alex Oliveira: “Cowboy” Oliveira is coming off of a dominant victory over former Bellator lightweight champion Will Brooks this past October. What should have been Oliveira’s breakthrough performance turned out to be somewhat of a debacle due to him missing weight by five pounds and his unprofessional taunting of Brooks following the TKO victory.
Now back in his more suited welterweight division, the grizzled 28 year old Brazilian will look to start a new title run in this Fight Pass feature prelim. Oliveira possesses many of the same weapons as his American Cowboy counterpart and continues to train at ATT despite his recent feud with fellow ATT fighter Will Brooks. His natural fighting abilities combined with some of the best coaches in the game may create a scary contender in the years to come.
Tim Means: Savvy southpaw striker Tim “The Dirty Bird” Means recently picked up his eighth victory in the octagon when he stopped late replacement Sabbah Homasi with slicing elbows and pin point knees. The win was Means’ fifth in his last six fights making him primed for contender run.
This is the New Mexican fighters second stint in the UFC and he is making the most of the opportunity. Since his return to the octagon Means has gone 6-2 and is one or two wins away from being ranked. His fan friendly, strike first style will help him book big fights and named opponents.
The Fight: These two are nearly mirror images of each other stylistically and physically. Means will have the slight advantage on the feet with Oliveira being the better grappler. This one will be decided by Oliveira’s take downs (much like the Moontasri fight) Means should do more damage in the striking realm but lose a decision based on control time on the ground for Oliveira. Oliveira Unanimous Decision
-190 Brandon Thatch (11-4) vs. +155 Niko Price (8-0)
Brandon Thatch: Once a can’t miss prospect Brandon “Ruckus” Thatch has had his hype train halted by his last three opponents. After debuting with two violent stoppages of Justin Edwards and Paulo Thiago, Thatch has been submitted by Benson Henderson, Gunnar Nelson and Siyar Bahadurzada respectively.
The Elevation Fight Team member is still considered one of the most dangerous strikers in the welterweight division, but his lack of wrestling and submission defense have prevented him from taking the next step into the division’s elite. Thatch’s last bout was over nine months ago, hopefully he has spent his lengthy layoff drilling take down defense and is able to display improved grappling skills or the 31 year old’s quest for UFC glory may come to an end.
Niko Price: Undefeated Fight Time Promotions welterweight champion Niko “The Hybrid” Price will make his UFC debut on short notice stepping in on two and a half weeks notice for fellow Floridan Sabbah Homasi who was forced to withdraw from this bout due to injury. Price has fought his whole career in the Florida based Fight Time Promotions where he won their title back in 2015 and has defended it three times since then.
Training out of American Top Team Cape Coral under BJJ black belt Guillermo “Willy” Hardoy, Price will be more than prepared for a ground battle, but he is much more than a just a jujitsu fighter, with six of his eight victories coming by KO/TKO he will not hesitate to stand and trade in the pocket. Price will be a well rounded, heavy handed, fight finishing focused addition to the UFC’s welterweight division.
The Fight: If Price focuses on wrestling early and often he could stifle Thatch’s mauling muay thai attack and ride out a victory on the mat. But Price is a crowd pleaser and he will go toe to toe with the much more seasoned Thatch. Price has not faced anyone near the level of striker of Thatch and he will prove to be too technical and powerful on the feet ending this one in the opening exchanges with heavy knees. Thatch TKO 1st
+150 Mike Pyle (27-12-1) vs. -175 Alex Garcia (13-3)
Mike Pyle: MMA Pioneer Mike “Quicksand” Pyle has lost three of his last four octagon bouts, including a second round knockout loss to Alberto Mina in his last outing. The record and age might lead you to believe that Pyle has nothing left in the tank, but his last few fights have been extremely competitive and he is still collecting fight of the night bonuses making it difficult for the 41 year old to hang em up.
Since his pro debut in 1999 against Rampage Jackson, Mike Pyle has been a consummate example of a fighter. He has been a UFC fighter for nearly a decade, over the years he may have lost a tick or two in the speed department but he is slowly gaining old man strength and with the choking abilities he possesses, he just might collect one or two more submission of the night bonuses before he calls it a career.
Alex Garcia: Tristar up and comer Alex “The Dominican Nightmare” Garcia will look to bounce back from his most recent TKO loss to Sean Strickland. Garcia was in the Strickland fight the whole way and had a chance at winning a decision, but his heavily muscled frame gassed in the third and he went down with less than a minute left in the fight.
Garcia is an explosive well rounded prospect, but his cardio issues may be preventing him from taking the step to the next level of competition. He may want to drop some of the bulk and move to lightweight where he will still have a massive strength advantage, or he can continue to finish people early in fights at welterweight.
The Fight: Pyle’s best chance in this is to drag it into the later rounds and look for the choke. However Garcia’s strength and ground strikes will be too much for the mullet sporting vet and Garcia will get the stoppage early. Garcia TKO 1st
-153 Antonio Carlos Junior (7-2) vs. +133 Marvin Vettori (11-2)
Antonio Carlos Junior: TUF: Brazil 3 heavyweight winner Antonio Carlos Junior got back on the winning track when he scored a late in the fight RNC finish over MMA Masters Leonardo Augusto Leleco in Hidalgo, Texas. Carlos Junior showcased his world class BJJ in this fight, but more importantly he displayed a improved gas tank and continuously searched for the finish despite having a decision in the bag.
Carlos Junior has not lived up to the lofty expectations that were placed on him following the TUF victories, but when a World Champion BJJ fighter is knocking out heavyweights, it can create unrealistic expectations. Still only 26 Carlos Junior is coming into his athletic peak and will be a force in the middleweight division for many years to come.
Marvin Vettori: 23 year old Marvin Vettori joins Alessio Sakara as the second Italian to ever have his hand raised in the octagon. Vettori submitted BJJ black belt Alberto Uda with a beautiful arm in guillotine after spending the majority of the first round landing ground and pound inside of the lanky Uda’s body triangle from the bottom.
Vettori’s ceiling is obviously very high, he is BJJ brown belt who hits like a rhino and has shown the ability to wrestle. A true new breed fighter Vettori is adding to his versatile arsenal by training with Rafael Cordeiro and company at Kings MMA. A win over another elite BJJ fighter like Cara de Sapato would put this young Italian on a lot of people’s radar.
The Fight: Working with Kings MMA will undoubtedly improve Vettori’s striking but the strongest aspect of his attack is a dominant ground attack, which would take him right into Carlos Junior’s world. Look for Vettori to try to keep it standing but only be able to thwart off his massive middleweight opponent for so long. Carlos Junior will get in much needed fight experience in a dominant decision. Carlos Junior Unanimous Decision
-110 #6 Johny Hendricks (17-5) vs. -110 #8 Neil Magny (18-6)
Johny Hendricks: Former welterweight champion Johny “Big Rig” Hendricks came up short in his last outing against Kelvin Gastelum. The rising Mexican superstar out boxed Hendricks who was constantly a step behind and searching for the one punch knockout. The loss was Johny’s second in a row and suddenly the former world champion is on the verge of taking fights outside the top 15.
Hendricks still has all of the deadly weapons that earned him the title in 2014, but after losing the title to Robbie Lawler it seems as though he has lost the fire that fueled him on his championship run. Continuous weight problems and injuries have plagued him as of late, but with all of this being said he can still take out anyone in his division if he can find a home for one left hook.
Neil Magny: Former TUF: 16 competitor Neil Magny was overwhelmed at UFC 202 by late replacement Lorenz Larkin in a first round thrashing. Larkin was a totally different fight from Dong Hyun Kim who Magny had been game planing for and it showed when Larkin steamrolled Magny with creative, technical strikes before finishing him off with heavy elbows.
Magny appeared to be headed towards a title run before the Larkin fight, but it highlighted how much of a cerebral fighter Magny is and the importance of having a fighter specific gameplay for him. What Magny lacks in natural athleticism he makes up for in hard work and determination, with a full camp he can hang with anyone at welterweight.
The Fight: How Hendricks looks at the weigh ins will tell us a lot about how this fight is going to look. If he makes weight and does not appear to have had any struggles he has an excellent chance at winning this fight. If he misses weight or looks emaciated again, expect to see him struggle. My gut says Hendricks has lost the will to be a champion and will get out worked on the feet by Magny’s 80 inch reach and endless cardio. Magny Unanimous Decision