+225 Garreth McLellan (13-5) vs. -285 Paulo Borrachina (8-0)
Garreth McLellan: Tough as nails South African Garreth “Soldier Boy” McLellan recently dropped a back and forth split decision to Italian prospect Alessio Di Chirico. With the loss the converted rugby player fell to 1-3 in the octagon making Saturday night’s match up a must win.
McLellan made a name for himself in South African promotion EFC with vicious ground strikes, smothering top control and slick chokes. In his time in the octagon he has displayed much improved stand up, but should focus on returning to what brought him to the dance if he is going to make it as a UFC fighter.
Paulo Borrachina: TUF Brazil 3 alum Paulo Borrachina got by on athleticism and youth as a 23 year old on the reality , but he lacked the technical proficiency and experience to win the show. Three years of high level Brazilian competition on the regional circuit have prepared him for his return to the octagon to prove he belongs in their with the world’s best fighters.
Since he exited TUF Brazil 3 Borrachinha has been on a tear, 5-0 with five first round knock outs, including a title victory and defense in Walid Ismail’s Jungle Fight promotion. He has shown massive improvement and maturity as a fighter and more than earned his way back in to the octagon.
The Fight: Borrachinha will be the stronger, faster and more athletic of the two, but has not fought out of the second round since his loss on TUF. McLellan has shown that he thrives in deep waters and his best opportunity will be a late in the fight stoppage. This will be a showcase of Borrachinha improved skills early, however if he can not get McLellan out of there early it may slip away from him later in the fight. Borrachinha TKO 1st
-110 Rony Jason (15-6) vs. -120 Jeremy Kennedy (9-0)
Rony Jason: TUF Brazil winner Rony Jason recently returned from a nine month suspension due to testing positive for an illegal diuretic in a post fight test. His first fight back was one sided decision loss at the hands of perennial top ten featherweight Dennis Bermudez last August.
Jason i s a dynamic, creative striker who can end a fight with all of his limbs, on the mat he is a dangerous submission threat from the top or bottom. The 32 year old vet has gone 2-3-1 in his last five bouts making this pivotal bout two hours away from his hometown the perfect opportunity to right the ship on his 20 plus fight career.
Jeremy Kennedy: 24 year old Canadian up and comer Jeremy “JBC” Kennedy made a successful UFC debut despite being forced to fight at Lightweight a class up from his natural 145 pound division. The debut victory over his much larger, fellow Canadian opponent Alex Ricci was a grinding one that Kennedy won with a frantic pace and a endless gas tank.
Kennedy spent this whole camp at his home gym Revolution MMA in Langley, BC training with ONE FC Bantamweight Champion Bibiano Fernandez among many others. He lived, trained and fought in Thailand for a year helping to round out his grapple heavy game. Kennedy is one of the brightest young stars in Canadian MMA and represents the first of a new generation. Check out Punch-Face’s profile of Kennedy as one of the top five prospects in Canada. The “Eh Team” 5 Canadian UFC Fighters On The Rise
The Fight: Jason will come out swinging looking for the early knock out for his home town crowd. Once the initial adrenaline wears off and Kennedy survives the early onslaught expect to see Kennedy control the majority of the fight on the ground and up against the cage, spoiling the homecoming of the TUF Champion. Kennedy Unanimous Decision
-260 Michel Prazeres (21-2) vs. +200 Josh Burkman (29-14)
Michel Prazeres: Stout Lightweight Michel “Tractor” Prazers put together his most impressive performance in his last octagon victory over Gilbert Burns. Prazers out struck the BJJ world champion over three rounds coming close to getting a stoppage on a few separate occasions. The 33 year old has quietly made a name for himself in the Lightweight division compiling a 5-2 record including a controversial victory over Chechen Maribek Taisumov in which Taisumov was deducted two points for fence grabs.
Prazers has predominantly been a smothering wrestler, but he showcased tight, crisp boxing in the Burns win that adds a new wrinkle to his game. The Brazilian is built like a fire hydrant and has used his strength to overwhelm opponents on the mat, but if his Boxing continues to improve he will be a tough out at 155 pounds.
Josh Burkman: 17 time UFC veteran Josh “The People’s Warrior” Burkman came up just short in his last outing, dropping a split decision to newcomer Zak Ottow last October. He is a vestige of the early TUF days, but his well rounded, continually evolving game has kept him relevant for over a decade at the top of the sport, an accomplishment few fighters can claim.
Burkman has not had much success this time around, but he has been entertaining in every fight. This most recent loss brings Burkman’s second stint record to 1-4 with one no contest and it would be safe to assume that the 37 year old’s gate keeper job in on the line in this fight.
The Fight: This is a very winnable fight for Burkman his wrestling will be strong enough to hold off Prazers take downs and his boxing should be a notch above the stocky Brazilians. Burkman will prolong his UFC career with a decisive victory over three rounds. Burkman Unanimous Decision
#14 -185 Rani Yahya (23-9) vs. +150 Joe Soto (17-5)
Rani Yahya: When you talk about a Jujitsu specialist in mma, Rani Yahya has to be one the first names to leave your mouth. Yahya represents the pinnacle of BJJ in MMA, the ADCC champion advanced his current win streak to four with a masterful grappling exhibition over Japanese Alpha Male Michinori Tanaka this past September.
8-2 since his UFC debut in 2011 Yahya has quietly fought himself in to the top 15 of the Featherweight division.At 32 he is reaching his prime as a fighter and his elite specialized skills will make him an opponent that very few fighters in the Featherweight top 10 will be volunteering to fight.
Joe Soto: Former Bellator featherweight champion and UFC Bantamweight title challenger Joe Soto recently won his second fight in a row submitting TUF Latin America stand out Marco Beltran with a heel hook in the first round of their November fight in Mexico. In the fight prior Soto mounted a heroic come from behind submission victory in the third against TUF 18 alum Chris Beal.
The Colin Oyama trained fighter has demonstrated why they call him “One Bad Mofo” in his last few outings, making up for a rocky 0-3 start in the octagon. The short notice victory earned Soto this ranked opponent and he now has the opportunity to jump right in to the title picture at 135 pounds.
The Fight: If it was anyone else in the division I would say Soto will be able to hold his own on the ground, but Yahya is another level of grappling excellence. Soto will have a noticeable striking advantage, but most of Yahya’s opponents do and most of them end up on their back. Yahya Unanimous Decision
-235 Sergio Moraes (11-3-1) vs. +185 Davi Ramos (6-1)
Sergio Moraes: BJJ world champion Sergio ” The Panther” Moraes’s last bout was a split decision victory over Zak Ottow in what should have been a clear cut decision for the TUF Brazil finalist. Moraes won the first with his grappling and was able to out strike the technically superior boxer Ottow with looping counters that continuously landed over Ottow’s jabs.
Since his TUF Brazil finale loss to Cezar Mutante Moraes has gone 5-0-1 despite being sidelined for all of 2014 with injuries. 34 year old Moraes can make some waves at 170 if he can stay healthy and tighten up his striking. A win over this dangerous new comer would surely warrant a ranked opponent for Moraes’s next bout.
Davi Ramos: ADCC champion Davi “The Tasmanian Devil” Ramos will step in for Max Griffin on two weeks notice to make his UFC debut a weight up from his natural Lightweight division. Ramos has had success in his MMA career but it has been limited due to his commitment to the grappling world. He has victories over UFC vets Juan Manuel Puig and Jose “El Teco” Quinones with his only professional defeat coming at the hands of Bellator fan favorite David Rickels.
Ramos has a very Palhares like build compact, powerful and extremely technical on the mat. the 30 year old has the tools to be a contender at Lightweight. Win or lose Ramos will most likely step back down to 155 pounds which is a much better fit for his 5’8″ frame.
The Fight: These two world champion BJJ fighters will cancel each others ground fighting out allowing this fight to play out in the striking realm. They both throw wild looping punches with 100% power on every shot which may create a who ever lands first situation. However Moraes’s cage experience and four inch height advantage will give him the edge over the UFC new comer in a three round kickboxing match. Moraes Unanimous Decision
#11 +140 Francisco Trinaldo (21-4) vs. -170 Kevin Lee (14-2)
Francisco Trinaldo: TUF Brazil alum Francisco “Massaranduba” Trinaldo finally nabbed a spot in the Lightweight top 15 with a well placed elbow on Paul Felder’s brow that opened up a cut that left him unable to continue. Trinaldo was out striking the Muay Thai expert Felder with slick footwork and a wide array of feints and fakes followed by hard straight shots.
Trinaldo’s Lightweight win streak is now at seven, only number one contenders Khabib Nurmagomedov (8) and Tony Ferguson (9) can match his impressive string of victories. The underrated 38 year old has easily become the most successful cast member of the inaugural TUF Brazil season, if he can pick up his eighth consecutive win we could see an intriguing rematch with the last man to defeat him Michael Chiesa.
Kevin Lee: 24 year old Xtreme Couture prospect Kevin “The Motown Phenom” Lee will get his first crack at a ranked opponent following a flawless victory over Dagestani Magomed Mustafaev in which Lee was able to put Mustafaev to sleep with a rear naked choke despite not being under his chin.
Lee’s perfect 3-0 2016 has secured his spot as the the Lightweight division’s brightest young star. His dominant wrestling and slick boxing highlighted by a pterodactyl like 77′” reach will make Kevin Lee a name you will hear at the top of the Lightweight rankings for many years to come.
The Fight: On paper Lee would get the check mark in almost every category, but in the octagon Massaranduba’s veteran savvy will be the difference maker in this fight. Trinaldo’s stand up has been untouchable and even though most of his set backs have come against strong wrestlers he will be able to avoid the majority of take down attempts and rack up enough points in the striking exchanges to get the judges nod. Trinaldo Unanimous Decision