+122 #8 John Moraga (16-5) vs. -142 #15 Sergio Pettis (14-2)
John Moraga: Former title contender John Moraga accepted this bout on two weeks notice, stepping in for Jussier Formiga who was forced to withdraw due to a ankle injury. In his last fight Moraga failed to let his hands go against Matheus Nicolau and ended up on the wrong side of a split decision. The Nicolau loss marked the first time Moraga has lost consecutive fights, dropping a decision to Joseph Benavidez prior.
Moraga has the heavy hands and submission skills to beat any flyweight on any given night, but at thirty two his room for missteps is getting smaller and smaller if he is ever going to make another run at the flyweight strap. Still the eighth ranked fighter in the world a win in this short notice fight might be exactly what Moraga needs to get a top five opponent.
Sergio Pettis: The younger of the Pettis brothers Sergio, will return to the octagon after a eight month lay off due to injuries. He has bounced back impressively from his 2015 knockout loss to Ryan Benoit winning his last two bouts over Chris Kelades and Chris Cariaso.
Still only 23, Pettis is growing in the octagon with every fight. This huge opportunity is a perfect meausring stick to see where he is at in his development. A win over a well respected veteran like Moraga would almost certainly be enough to put Pettis in the flyweight top ten for the first time in his career.
The Fight: This one should play out mainly on the feet. Pettis will have the speed and technical advantage, but Moraga will put Pettis’s suspect chin to the test. Pettis’s movement will keep him out of danger and I do not expect to see him make a technical mistake like he did in the Benoit fight. Pettis Unanimous Decision
-110 Court McGee (19-5) vs. -110 Ben Saunders (19-7-2)
Court McGee: Tuf: 11 winner Court “The Crusher” McGee showed tremendous heart in his last bout narrowly decisioning Dom Steele in his native Utah. Court rocked Steele right out of the gate, but the young, powerful Steele surged at the end landing hard shots and stuffing McGee’s take down attempts. But ultimately McGee would do just enough to hold on to the victory.
Court has fared pretty well since dropping to the welterweight division in 2013. 4-2 as a welterweight he is consistently a fight or two away from being in the top fifteen. McGee will most likely never fight for a title, but he has the technical prowess and gas tank to serves as a world class gate keeper.
Ben Saunders: “Killa B” returns to the octagon after only one fight outside of the UFC. Saunders’s armbared fellow UFC veteran Jacob Volkman in :17 to earn his third stint in the worlds premier MMA promotion. Saunders was surprisingly cut after a loss to Patrick Cote, prior to the Cote loss he had won three straight in the UFC including a submission of the year candidate in a omiplata victory over Chris Heatherly.
Saunders is a dynamic muay thai striker and extremely creative on the ground, his 6’3″elongated frame gives him unique positional opportunities that not many welterweights share. If he can avoid getting caught with hard shots Saunders has the ability to be an exciting, marketable contender in the welterweight division.
The Fight: McGee has shown an iron chin in the past, but he suffered his first knockout last year at the hands of Santiago Ponzinibio and once a fighter gets knocked out for the first time the next ones come a little eaiser. McGee has issues with high level strikers if he can not get them to the mat, he will look for the take down early and eat a knee while in the clinch bringing an early stoppage to this one. Saunders TKO 1st
-120 Joe Lauzon ( 26-13) vs. +100 Marcin Held (22-5)
Joe Lauzon: Human highlight reel Joe Lauzon took home another fight of the night bonus in his last bout going to war for the second time with Jim Miller. Unfortunately for the eleven year UFC veteran he lost another controversial split decision. Prior to the Miller rematch Lauzon became the first man to knock out Diego Sanchez at UFC 200.
“J-Lau” has given us some of the most memorabile performances in UFC history and eventough the scrappy thirty two year old is most likly on the down side of his career, he still has a few quality years of collecting bonuses and breaking in newbies left.
Marcin Held: Polish leg lock specialist Marcin Held did not have the debut that many expected. The former Bellator stand out was dominated on the mat by future hall of famer Diego Sanchez. He had no answer for Diego’s smothering top game and when the submission did not present itself he lost a clear cut unanimous decision.
Only 24 it is far too early to hit the panic button on the BJJ black belts career. He lacks the strength to compete with stronger wrestlers right now, but as he matures he should put on more muscle to prevent him from getting overpowered . If he does not bulk up, featherweight might not be out of the question for the 5’7″ fighter.
The Fight: Held’s lack of wrestling really hurt him in his debut, granted Lauzon is not the level of wrestler that Diego is, but his submission defense is world class. Lauzon will score points in the striking arena while thwarting off leg locks and racking up top time on the mat. Lauzon Decision
-410 #10 Yair Rodriguez (9-1) vs +340 BJ Penn (16-10-2)
Yair Rodriguez: Mexico’s first budding MMA superstar followed up his head kick knockout of the year over Andre Fili with a five round back and forth striking affair with Alex Caceres. Rodriguez’s first main event billing was not the highlight reel knockout that many had hoped for, but the five rounder did allow him to showcase his underrated wrestling and excellent cardio.
The 24 year old is spending most of his training camp working on his wrestling in Chicago with renowned coach Mike Valle. If Rodriguez can sure up his wrestling he is going to be a difficult puzzle for the featherweight division to solve for many years to come.
BJ Penn: “The Prodigy” will finally make his return to the octagon after having three bouts potential bouts scraped. Penn has not fought since his one sided TKO loss to Frankie Edgar two years ago, many thought that would be the last time we saw the legendary Hawaiian, but retirement did not suite him and he is back to show he can still compete with the best fighters in the sport.
This will only be the second time Penn has fought at featherweight, he has fought in almost every division through the years even going up as high as light heavyweight to fight Lyoto Machida. BJ has spent this camp training with Jackson/Wink which suggest he is giving his all in this comeback effort. 1-5-1 in his last seven bouts he is looking to end his career on a positive note.
The Fight: The striking in this bout is a wild card, Yair’s creative kick arsenal vs. BJ’s “just scrap” boxing style should be interesting. But BJ will have the distinct advantage when this goes to the ground. Once BJ gets the fight to the ground he will secure back position and lock in a RNC to make a triumphant return. Penn RNC 3rd