D. FOX: Preliminary card preview for UFC Fight Night 85 “Mir vs. Hunt”

By Dayne Fox, MMATorch Contributor

For the most part, this weekend’s UFC Fight Night 85 card has been forgotten. Neither Frank Mir nor Mark Hunt appear likely to be in the title hunt again. Neil Magny’s calculating style isn’t much of a draw for viewers, while his opponent Hector Lombard has been out of action for over a year due to suspension. While both fights are evenly matched, it isn’t hard to see where people are overlooking this card.

The truth is there are a few hidden gems up and down the card, with the prelims offering a surprising amount of quality for a foreign card… and that is even with a recent spat of lineup changes. Not every fight is worth sitting down for, but there are worse ways to spend a Saturday night. At the very least, have your DVR ready…

Brendan O’Reilly vs. Alan Jouban (Welterweight)

It looks like the UFC is tired of lobbing O’Reilly softballs, as it is throwing him in the deep end with action fighter Jouban. It’s sink or swim time for O’Reilly with the smart money leaning towards sink.

O’Reilly does have the physical skills to become a staple on the UFC roster, but there are plenty of fighters who are just as talented (if not more so) who have never stepped foot in the Octagon, with his leg up on them being his Australian roots. His lack of size at welterweight and lack of range fighting are the issues holding him back from developing those tools. Those aren’t impossible deficiencies to overcome, but it is difficult.

While the lack of size certainly hurts his ability to fight on the outside, it affects his bread and butter even more as he is a grinder at heart. O’Reilly did hold his own in his las appearance against Vik Grujic, but Grujic was a horrible wrestler who quite frankly wasn’t a UFC caliber fighter. Throw in O’Reilly’s loss to Kajan Johnson in the TUF Nations tournament and it’s hard to see where he can pull this one off. He is strong for his size and does a good job staying active in the clinch with knees and dirty boxing, but will he be able to implement that.

Jouban will be looking to make the fight a striking affair, something that he has had stupendous success with in his UFC run. Despite his pretty boy looks, Jouban isn’t afraid to eat a punch or two in order to deliver on his attack. He isn’t the most technically sound striker, but his aggression and toughness make up for that. Jouban is actually most dangerous from the clinch (see his elbow KO of Richard Walsh) which could spell doom for O’Reilly as that is exactly where he’ll look to go.

The one concern that I do have is that Jouban isn’t much of a wrestler. If O’Reilly can get him to the ground, Jouban’s ground skills are only adequate enough to survive and get back to his feet. Jouban rarely if ever looks to go to the ground himself, but does have some decent strikes if he ends up getting the advantageous position.

I really don’t like O’Reilly’s chances here and Jouban has shown improved takedown defense in his UFC stint which makes me like O’Reilly’s chances even less. O’Reilly is a tough dude, but I don’t think he’ll be able to withstand Jouban’s swarming attack, giving Jouban his third stoppage win in the UFC. Jouban via TKO in the first round


Daniel Hooker vs. Mark Eddiva (Featherweight)

Hooker and Eddiva present a hell of a strong dark horse candidate, as both come from a striking background before entering the sport of MMA. Keep an eye on this one…

The younger of the two, Hooker has also found more UFC success thus far; he scored an unexpected upset over Hatsu Hioki last year, displaying improved grappling defense while maintaining his high output striking. Possessing a large frame, Hooker does a fine job of using his reach to keep his opponents on the outside while also proving to be surprisingly efficient in the clinch against the cage, grinding out his opponent. He possess plenty of KO power in his kicks too if he is given the space to let them fly.

What has been troublesome for Hooker has been his confidence in his chin as he can take a beating. He has taken a lot of damage in his fights as he doesn’t place a high emphasis on defense. Coming from a kickboxing background, he has also struggled to pick up any efficient offensive wrestling or submission skills as he has finished only a single takedown in his four UFC bouts. If his defensive strides are any indication, he should be making strides in his offensive capabilities as well.

Eddiva has shown a lot of toughness himself, engaging in a memorable striking affair with Kevin Souza almost two years ago that saw him fall to the high volume his much longer opponent was able to lay upon him as Eddiva is a small dude for the featherweight class. He has struggled with his takedown defense as a result, but that shouldn’t be an issue for him against Hooker. That doesn’t solve his 7″ reach disadvantage he’ll have against Hooker…

Eddiva is actually the more diverse fighter as he does offer a surprisingly solid shot for takedowns as well as a good mix of punching combinations and leg kicks. He’ll need to keep Hooker guessing if he wants to walk away with a win and he has timed his level changes well enough to be able to pull that off. Otherwise, Hooker’s length and lack of defense will lead to an easy win for Hooker.

Eddiva has outstruck two of his three UFC opponents while Hooker has only outstruck one of his four opponents. Considering this should be a striker’s battle and Eddiva possesses the better takedowns, that doesn’t sound good for Hooker. However, Hooker has shown more improvement since his UFC entrance and it is hard to anticipate that he won’t continue to improve in addition to the one opponent that landed more strikes than Eddiva had a sizeable reach advantage… just like Hooker. Hooker via decision


Leslie Smith vs. Rin Nakai (Women’s Bantamweight)

Major contrast in styles as Smith is a lanky stand-and-trade brawler while Nakai is a stout grinder with both having been out of action for over a year.

Smith is best remembered for the gruesome ear injury she suffered in her last appearance against Jessica Eye; her ear was damn near ripped right off, leading doctors to stop the fight. Exhibiting the toughness that is her trademark, Smith was upset at the stop of the bout. Unfortunately it reflects her fighting style as well, as she’s absorbed over 12 strikes a minute over the course of her three UFC appearances. Stop and think about that for a moment…. Got it? Yeah, that is an ungodly amount of punishment.

Smith’s style is perfect against inexperienced fighters, as her own sheer volume can be overwhelming itself. Just ask Jessamyn Duke. Experienced opponents have little problem moving out of the way and countering. If she can take a measured approach, Smith has the reach to cause severe problems for her much shorter opponent. Though it hasn’t been seen recently, Smith has a scrappy wrestling game defined more by enthusiasm as opposed to technique.

While Nakai’s 5’1″ frame certainly works against her at range, she deserves credit for knowing how to maximize her strengths with what she has been given. One of the strongest women in the weight class, she is a bowling ball of sorts who presses her opponent against the cage, wearing them down with short punches and knees while mixing in takedown attempts. If she can get the takedown she is very hard to get out from as she has a strong base and good ground strikes.

Smith’s tendency to get reckless should allow Nakai the opportunities to exploit her strengths, but I can’t see the entire fight being fought in close quarters. Nakai’s only effective range offense is her kicks as she is too patient in looking for an opening with her punches. She has to be more aggressive in closing the distance or she will be picked apart all day as Miesha Tate was able to do to her in her UFC debut.

In one of the few fights I feel confident in picking, I see Smith taking this fight easily. She doesn’t have the physical skills of many of her counterparts in the division, but I haven’t seen many people in the sport who simply want it as bad as she does. Sure, it leads to her being reckless more often than not, but Nakai isn’t the style of fighter to expose her there. Smith will simply overwhelm her with volume. Smith via decision


Richard Walsh vs. Viscardi Andrade (Welterweight)

While neither of these guys seem to have a very bright UFC future (and haven’t done much thus far), this could potentially be a fun contest between two of the lower level welterweights coming off of wins.

Walsh is the wild card here. He is best known for an ugly, grinding style that isn’t exactly crowd-pleasing. However, he showed improvement in his striking in his last outing against Steven Kennedy while also showing a bad tendency to take the fight where Kennedy was strongest. While a low fight IQ isn’t good for the fighter, it usually results in some sort of an exciting sequence. Think Diego Sanchez marching forward baiting his opponent to hit him. His aggression and gradual movement away from being a grinder leads me to believe this will be a fun fight.

Walsh is a big dude at 170 lbs and used to use that to his advantage as he is a potent wrestler. While he now looks comfortable in space mixing in kicks with his probing jab and hooks, it has to be concerning that he has gone away from what originally brought him to the dance and even appears to have regressed there as Kennedy took him down multiple times. He is a subpar BJJ practitioner as well and even though he looks comfortable striking on the outside, his technique is still fairly sloppy.

Andrade has some similarities in terms of his fight IQ, but has shown progress in that area whereas Walsh has seemingly regressed in that area. Andrade recent returned from a gruesome leg injury and looked pretty sharp in his return, maintaining his stamina until the end while using his reach from a distance and girth in the clinch to beat down on Gasan Umalatov. What makes the feat more impressive is that he never wavered in his aggression.

Andrade was known as a BJJ expert upon his UFC entry, but hasn’t been able to exhibit those skills as he hasn’t made much of an effort to take fights to the ground, though that may be due to his struggles to actually go to the ground when he does try. If the fight does go to the ground, it is hard not to favor his grappling skills even if his wrestling has been anything but a strength as he possesses good guard passing skills and top control.

Though this is a closer fight than I’ve indicated, I can’t help but clearly favor Andrade to come out on top with his recent improvements. His grappling is superior and has more power in his punches in addition to a solid track record of durability. I can only see Walsh winning via decision, but Andrade has multiple avenues to get the W. Andrade via TKO in the second round


Ross Pearson vs. Chad Laprise (Lightweight)

The early favorite for FOTN, as both prefer to stand and trade, Pearson represents the old guard who has been around the block while Laprise is the young lion looking to establish his claim.

For such a long period of time Pearson was seen as the up-and-comer that it is a bit surreal to see him as the old dude, but this will be his 19th UFC appearance, second to all UK fighters behind Michael Bisping. He’s definitely the old guard. It could also be said that he has been looking better than ever as he has been mixing in well-timed takedowns along with some of the most technical boxing in the division along with occasional one-punch power.

Laprise has a lot of similarities to Pearson as he is also a pretty technically sound boxer with occasional power. While Laprise isn’t quite as technically sharp as his English counterpart, he makes up for that by throwing a higher volume. He has also shown a high fight IQ by taking the fight where his opponent is weakest. His wrestling isn’t outstanding, but it is functional enough to allow him to take the fight to the ground if his opposition shows a deficiency there.

What has prevented Pearson from rising to the cream of the crop of the division is his propensity to eat his opponent’s clean shots, and his inability to prevent top wrestlers from taking him down over and over. Again, Laprise shows a lot of the same tendencies while having more success preventing takedowns, albeit against lesser competition. It’s hard to say how he would fair until he gets a consistent step up in competition.

So something has to give between these two very evenly matched competitors, but what? Who has the more diverse striking game? Both mix in kicks pretty well. Striking defense? Both eat more strikes than average, but that has more to do with their propensity to hang out in the pocket than their defense which is actually quite sound. Recent opposition? Both are coming off losses to Francisco Trinaldo, though Pearson lasted the 15 minutes while Laprise fell in the first round.

I’m favoring the vet here and the MMA math against Trinaldo has nothing to do with it. Pearson has done his thing against stronger competition and I have a hard time not seeing his veteran savvy come into play in addition to his power showing itself more often than Laprise’s. This should be a very close contest that will likely go down to the wire. Pearson via decision


Alan Patrick vs. Damien Brown (Lightweight)

After some late card shuffling, Brown makes his UFC debut on less than a week’s notice having the same look as previous late Aussie replacements Kennedy, Anton Zafir, and Ben Wall. That isn’t good.

Patrick is the proven commodity here and he is still very much a mystery himself. He has displayed incredible promise at times with the quick-twitch athleticism that produces highlight reels while also suffering from long bouts of inactivity. Those tendencies lead to a lack of volume and a reliance on the knockout as his offensive wrestling hasn’t proven to be up to snuff for him to grind out a decision, leaving him looking for a finish in order to pull out the win.

The best comparison for Patrick is that of a poor man’s Anderson Silva… a very poor man’s Anderson Silva. He relies so much on his athleticism that he picks and chooses when he wants to strike. His athleticism has allowed him to find success with that with some of the KO’s he’s pulled out, but he doesn’t have the timing or movement of the legendary figure and thus won’t ever find similar success. Though he has a reputation as a BJJ practitioner, he rarely pulls that out of his repertoire.

Can Brown exploit Patrick’s bout of inactivity? Brown appears to have the basics of the fight game down (something that doesn’t seem to always be true of Patrick), but that appears to be the best thing that can be said of him as he makes the leap to the UFC. He lacks athleticism, isn’t big enough to be a grinder, and also suffers from bouts of inactivity as he mostly throws one strike at a time.

Brown’s best chance might be to grind out Patrick and most expect him to try to do just that. That has worked for him at times, but his inability to find consistent success with that in Australia is cause for concern as there isn’t a history of successful wrestling down under. Otherwise he’ll need to step up his volume. He actually does a sound job of mixing in kicks to the body and legs with his punches when he starts to let loose, but that hasn’t come nearly often enough.

I very much expect this fight to be an exercise in frustration right up until Patrick is able to pull out the highlight reel finish. Brown simply isn’t enough of an athlete to avoid all of Patrick’s high-risk maneuvers or to make Patrick pay for them. What really sells me is Patrick has yet to be taken down in the UFC and I don’t see why Brown would be the first to do so. Patrick via KO in the first round

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