-120 Dong Hyun Kim (14-8-3) vs. -110 Thibault Gouti (11-3)
Dong Hyun Kim: Former Top FC Lightweight champion Dong Hyun”Maestro”Kim scored his first UFC victory over Brendan O’Reilly at the TUF: 24 Finale this past December. Unlike his first two fight of the night brawls, Kim implemented a conservative game plan against the TUF: Nations alum, controlling him in the clinch with his Black Belt level Judo and landing multiple take downs en route to a unanimous decision.
Dong Hyun Kim trains with Dong Hyun Kim at South Korea’s top gym Busan Team Mad and has grappling credentials on par with his much more well known Welterweight training partner with the same name. Kim will need to find a balance between crowd pleasing slug fests and technical grappling matches if he plans on hanging around the UFC for a while.
Thibault Gouti: France’s Thibault Gouti will receive this rare fourth opportunity to pick up his first win in the octagon. Gouti dropped to 0-3 (all finishes) following a first round TKO loss to Chad Laprise last August.
Gouti will once again head to New Mexico to work with the legendary Jackson/Wink Gym for this must win fight. He is a power punching boxer with better than average submission skills, who has run into trouble with cardio issues, but its nothing a few hundred wind sprints in the New Mexican mountains can’t remedy.
The Fight: Kim could very easily find himself in another war if he can not get this fight to the ground. Thibault’s take down defense was solid early against Aubin-Mercier but faded late. Superior Boxing and solid take down defense will lead the Frenchman to his long sought after first octagon victory. Gouti Unanimous Decision
-215 JJ Aldrich (4-2) vs. +185 Chan-Mi Jeon (5-0)
JJ Aldrich: TUF: 23 contestant JJ Aldrich stepped in for cast mate Tatiana Suarez on one weeks notice in her debut against Juliana Lima at Fight Night 102. Aldrich would lose a hard fought decision, but has been rewarded for steeping up with this Fight Pass Prelims headliner showcase.
The 24 year old Aldrich earned her way into the big show by going 2-0 (including a Invicta fight of the night) outside of the octagon following her season on TUF. Aldrich trains with the 303 Fight Team in her native Colorado along side Strawweight title contender Rose Namajunas.
Chan-Mi Jeon: Undefeated 19 year old South Korean Chan-Mi Jeon will make her UFC debut filling in for Nadia Kassem on a week notice. Chan-Mi Jeon sports a 5-0 record in her native country where she is the Flyweight champion of the ALL FC promotion.
A Muay Thai fighter by trade Jeon has finished four of her five victories with strikes in the first round. Her most recent first round finish over 45 year old veteran Megumi Yabushita was her biggest to date and captured her the aforementioned title.
The Fight: Yabushita may have the striking advantage, but Aldrich will be the more complete fighter. Aldrich will out point the young South Korean with take downs from the clinch and sporadic ground and pound. Aldrich Unanimous Decision
+275 Kiichi Kunimoto (18-6-2) vs. -325 Zak Ottow (14-4)
Kiichi Kunimoto: Japanese Pancrase veteran “Strasser” Kiichi Kunimoto had his three fight octagon winning streak snapped by Neil Magny in his fight in February of 2015. Kunimoto had some successes against Mangy scoring a few take downs early, but was not able to hang with the cardio freak Magny and ultimately succumbed to a rear naked choke in the third.
Two years removed from his last bout, the 36 year old Japanese veteran will be fully healed from lingering injuries that have kept him sidelined. Kunimoto’s striking is much improved from his Pancrase days, but he still does his best work in the clinch and on the mat winning nine of his eight-teen wins via the submission.
Zak Ottow: Milwaukee native Zak “the Barbarian” Ottow will fill in for Warrley Alves on about two weeks notice for this Welterweight match up. This will mark the third time Ottow has stepped up on short notice, his most recent being a controversial split decision loss to Sergio Moraes.
Coach and part-owner of the Pura Vida gym in Milwuakee, the BJJ’s Brown Belt’s roots are in grappling but he showcased impressive Boxing in both of his appearances in the octagon. If the 30 year old southpaw striker can get by Kunimoto it will be intriguing to see what he is capable of with a full fight camp.
The Fight: Ottow is the far superior striker and very strong in the clinch where Kunimoto does his best work. Ottow will keep his distance score on the feet and stay clear of Kunimotot’s trips en route to a decisive victory. Ottow Unanimous Decision
-158 #11 John Moraga (16-6) vs. +138 Ashkan Mokhtarian (13-1)
JohnMoraga: Former Flyweight title contender John Moraga is in desperate need of a win following three consecutive losses to Joseph Benavidez, Matheus Nicolau and Sergio Pettis respectively. The most recent Pettis fight was competitive, but the younger Pettis brother was too slick on the feet out pointing a frustrated Moraga.
The long time MMA Lab fighter has the heavy hands and submission skills to beat any Flyweight on any given night, but at 32 his room for missteps is getting smaller and smaller if he is going to make another run at the Flyweight strap.
Ashkan Mokhtarian: Long considered the best Flyweight in Australia Ashkan “The Assassin” Mokhtarian earned his call up by going 13-1 finishing all but one of his opponents and collecting nearly every belt on his native island continent.
The 31 year old Mokhtarian is co-owner of The Australian Top Team in New South Wales and travels to Thailand to train at the famed Tiger Muay Thai for his fight camps. A mixed martial artist since he began training in 2009 Mokhtarian can handle himself everywhere, but really stands out from the crowd with his lighting quick, technical and powerful Muay Thai.
The Fight: Mokhtarian will be faster on the feet, but Moraga is crafty with his strikes in a Diaz brothers way. Mokhtarian will hold his own early but will end up shooting after getting tagged and end up on the wrong end of Moraga’s go to choke. Moraga Guillotine 2nd
+135 Luke Jumeau (11-3) vs. _-155 Dominique Steele (14-8)
Luke Jumeau: 29 year old Kiwi prospect Luke “The Jedi” Jumeau will make his UFC debut in his home country riding a six fight winning streak. His most recent win was a second round TKO of UFC veteran Vik Grujic in come from behind performance in which Jumeau fought off a completely sunk in, under the chin rear naked choke to finish the TUF: Nations veteran with strikes.
Jumeau will be the second New Zealand born fighter to set foot in the UFC cage (Dan Hooker being the first). The Phuket Top Team fighter has god given knockout power and super slick submissions making him an intriguing addition to the stacked Welterweight division.
Dominique Steele: Ohio based fighter “Total Non Stop Action” Dom T. Dominique Steele has lived up to his nickname in his four UFC bouts. But at 1-3 in the octagon Steele will need to add “winner” somewhere in his ridiculously long nickname or he could be on the outs in the UFC.
The 29 year old Steele’s knock slam of Dong Hyun Kim was one of the best of the year and it is that kind of brute strength and athleticism that makes Steele such an exciting fighter to watch. His problems have been mainly cardio related, once his explosiveness is gone in the third the technique is not enough to secure the win.
The Fight: This one will start with chaos on the feet, Jumeau will be the more technical striker, but Steele will be able to close the distance and secure take downs after exchanging for the first couple minutes. Steele will implement a smarter, more energy efficient game plan to win a close one on the cards. Steele Unanimous Decision
-120 Damien Brown (17-9) vs. +100 Vinc Pinchel (9-1)
Damien Brown: Former Australian Army infantry soldier Damien “Beatdown” Brown picked up his second octagon victory narrowly defeating Jon Tuck via split decision. Brown showed his warrior spirit in the grueling three rounder that left both fighters completely spent.
Brown is a government certified badass and will put on a show if he can find a willing dance partner. But in a sport where the elite have never had a job other than fighting, it will be difficult to imagine him as anything more than a hometown favorite brought in to duke it out with guys at the bottom of the division.
Vinc Pinchel: TUF: 15 (Live) semi-finalist finally returns to the octagon following a three year hiatus from the sport. Pinchel broke his orbital in a 2014 victory over Anthony Njokuani. He than tore his bicep which extended his lay off and now three years later he’s ready to fight.
Pinchel began his training at Big John McCarthy’s Ultimate training center in 2008. When that gym shut it’s doors Pinchel began a nomadic training camp that carries him throughout southern California. Not a believer in ring rust Pinchel thinks he will be at his best for his long awaited return.
The Fight: This is a battle between two super tough dudes, it’s difficult to determine how the three year lay off will affect Pinchel, but if he brings back that same grit and toughness that he showed on TUF: 15 I will give him the edge in a bloody scrap. Pinchel TKO 3rd