UFC on FOX Saturday Preview: Ecochard’s look at the main card and all prelims with backstory, context, predictions

By Matt Ecochard, MMATorch contributor

Early Prelims (UFC Fight Pass)

Ryan Janes (8-1) vs. Adam Hunter (7-1) – Middleweight Bout:

A battle between two almost undefeated fights takes place to open the fight card. Janes will be looking for a submission with seven of his wins stemming from submissions. Hunter has six of his seven by way of KO/TKO so he will gunning for a stoppage. There is very little tape on Janes available, but he has only beaten one fighter that has a winning record. Hunter hasn’t faced many killers himself, but at least most of them have a positive record and in his last fight defeated former UFC fighter Chris Dempsey by first round KO.

PREDICTION: Adam Hunter via TKO Round 1

Marlon Vera (7-3) vs. Ning Guangyou (5-3) – Bantamweight Bout:

In another striker vs. grappler bout we have two fighters who have had some setbacks in their UFC careers thus far. Marlon Vera is a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu but has fairly rudimentary striking. He has been out struck and controlled in two of his three UFC appearances. Ning Guangyou won The Ultimate Fighter: China and has solid Muay Thai but is fairly lackluster in other areas. They both have a shared loss in Marco Beltran who has some wild but solid striking. If Marlon Vera can take down Guangyou a submission could occur, but if he has had issues with decent strikers in the past it makes it hard to see how he doesn’t lose another decision.

PREDICTION: Ning Guangyou via Unanimous Decision

Garreth McLellan (13-4) vs. Alessio Di Chirico (9-1) – Middleweight Bout:

Garreth McLellan has shown versatility in his career, but has been susceptible to strong strikers, shown in his last bout losing to Magnus Cedenblad by TKO. Alessio lost his first UFC bout in unimpressive fashion. I’d say that is due to the “octagon jitters” and he hasn’t shown all of his potential yet. He has a very solid overall game and should be able to control the pace and not get submitted. Surviving the early pressure Alessio should be able to show off his real skill set.

PREDICTION: Alessio Di Chirico via Submission Round 2

Jeremy Kennedy (8-0) vs. Alex Ricci (10-3) – Lightweight (No official UFC announcement as of 8/22)

This fight was just finalized this week. Kennedy was going to be taking on Josh Emmett, which would have been a very solid test for the undefeated prospect. On short notice Alex Ricci steps in and will attempt to spoil the debut of Kennedy. Kennedy should have the edge on the canvas, but Ricci has more knockout power standing up. With not much tape on either fight and on a one week notice the favorite has to be the man that was training with a full camp.

PREDICTION: Kennedy via Submission Round 1

Prelims (Fox)

Shane Campbell (12-4) vs. Felipe Silva (7-0) – Lightweight Bout:

Two impressive strikers are going to throw down in the opening fight for the Fox prelims. Shance Campbell has so much experience stemming from being extensive careers in Kickboxing and Muay Thai. He has had mixed results in MMA so far and has had a less than stellar UFC career going 1-3, with losses by submission, decision and TKO. Felipe Silva is making his UFC debut having won 5 of his 7 wins by TKO. Although Campbell has lots of experience, at a certain point it can have a negative return on investment, leaving him with a weaker chin, more damage and wear and tear. Look for a finish by Felipe Silva in a mild upset.

PREDICTION: Felipe Silva via TKO Round 1

Enrique Barzola (11-2) vs. Kyle Bochniak (6-1) – Featherweight Bout:

Enrique Barzola is entering his prime and has shown off a good ground game and the power to bully around his opponents so far. Kyle Bochniak lost his UFC debut in a mostly stand up affair against Charles Rosa, but that was only on a few days notice. This will be a battle of ferocity and strength, if Barzola can wrestle and clinch up he can control the fight. The question here is how will cutting the additional weight from lightweight alter the strengths of Barzola. Will he look better, and carry his strength or will he look sluggish and slower? I think the latter and Bochniak will be the quicker more precise man.

PREDICTION: Kyle Bochniak via Submission Round 3

Chad Laprise (10-2) vs. Thibault Gouti (11-2) – Lightweight Bout:

Chad Laprise is the superior striker in this bout. He looked very promising in his first three UFC bouts, but has since struggled to keep his momentum. His losses have come against those who have greater striking than his, but he has fared well against grapplers. Gouti is looking to grapple and go for the submission here, but will likely struggle. They have shared a UFC opponent in Olivier Aubin-Mercier. Laprise won a decision against him and Gouti lost by submission. Gouti has one last chance to impress to stay in the UFC, but I wouldn’t count on that.

PREDICTION: Laprise via Unanimous Decision

Sam Alvey (27-8, 1 NC) vs. Kevin Casey (9-4-1, 2 NC) – Middleweight Bout:

The feature Fox preliminary match should be a good one. “Smiling” Sam Alvey is known for his brutal hands of stone that can knock just about anyone out at Middleweight. While Alvey has struggled against some of the stronger competition in the UFC he usually finds a way to knock out or at least stifle his opponent enough for a win. Kevin Casey hasn’t had the best UFC career, only having 1 win in 5 appearances. If two of those bouts didn’t end in controversy and were just losses he would have certainly been cut. Casey will without a doubt be looking to take down Alvey and use his black belt Jiu-Jitsu skills. The more likely scenario is Alvey scoring the early knockout because Casey has shown again and again his soft chin.

PREDICTION: Sam Alvey via KO Round 1

Main Card (Fox)

Jim Miller (26-8, 1 NC) vs. Joe Lauzon (26-11) – Lightweight Bout:

What an amazing opening fight for the main card on Fox. A rematch of their bout from 2012 in which Miller won a decision, this fight is going to be slightly different this time around. Both men have great submission skills, Miller may be slightly better on the ground, but Lauzon has the better striking. Neither man has much of an upside left to their careers. These two fighters can have entertaining and exciting fights still and this should be one for sure. The result will come to which fighter has more left in their tank, and at this point judging by recent appearances looks to be Lauzon (Miller lost a decision to the 2016 version of Diego Sanchez while Lauzon knocked him out in the first round).  Look for Lauzon to soften up Miller with strikes and find his opening.

PREDICTION: Joe Lauzon via Submission Round 1

Paige VanZant (6-2) vs. Bec Rawlings (7-4) – Women’s Strawweight Bout:

Paige VanZant makes her return after a run on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. She has to face off against the always tough and gritty Bec Rawlings. In VanZant’s last bout she faced a case of too much too soon in Rose Namajunas, but showed an incredible heart not getting stopped until the 5th round. VanZant has shown good progress in her 4 UFC bouts with good offensive wrestling, decent striking and a solid armbar victory. Bec Rawlings is primarily a striker but has thorough submission knowledge. She is a fringe top 15 strawweight, but can’t seem to win against any higher ranked opponents. This is a great test for Paige to see where she lands and I believe that is why the UFC gave her this match up. Expect her to pass it and win a dominant decision.

PREDICTION: Paige VanZant via Unanimous Decision

Anthony Pettis (18-5) vs. Charles Oliveira (21-5, 1 NC) – Featherweight Bout:

Looking for career rejuvenation, Anthony Pettis is dropping down to 145 lbs. in order to stop his recent losing streak. His standup has always been some of the most unique and threatening with his strong Tae-Kwan-Do style, but he has looked subpar against those that can out muscle him and grapple him to control fights. Charles Oliveira is a very tough outing for his debut at featherweight. Oliveira has some of the slickest submissions out of the entire UFC roster and can win in a split second if you give him the opportunity. He has looked particularly great the last few years, only losing due to a stinger in his neck in his fight with Max Holloway.

If Pettis can keep this standing up he can certainly finish off Oliveira with some crisp techniques. Pettis shouldn’t use the crazy spinning techniques because it will leave him open to takedowns from Oliveira. If the fight goes to the floor, Pettis is in Oliveira’s world. Oliveira can finish this with anything from a calf-slicer to chokes and armbars. This will be an interesting matchup that can go either way, especially with Pettis at a smaller weight class. If Pettis pulls out a strong strategy and looks sharp it should be a great night for the former champ.

PREDICTION: Pettis via KO Round 1

Demian Maia (23-6) vs. Carlos Condit (30-9) – Welterweight Main Event (5 Rounds):

In the main event we have an excellent welterweight matchup. The all-star grappler Demian Maia has been on a tear through the division taking out the likes of Matt Brown, Neil Magny, Gunnar Nelson and more since 2014. The only two losses in recent years were to Rory MacDonald and Jake Shields. Carlos Condit is coming off one of the best performances of his career in a loss to former champion Robbie Lawler. That fight was about as close as you can get to not winning, but still feeling like you proved something.

While Condit is no slouch on the ground, Maia is on another level, so look for Maia to try to take him down. Maia has shown in the past a willingness to stand and box, but that was a time when Maia really was looking worse with every fight. Carlos Condit will try to use defensive wrestling and keep the fight standing up where he has the larger advantage. In a five round fight, it seems like Maia will have more of a chance to implement his game-plan and work his way towards a submission as long as he doesn’t get caught on the way in with Condit’s vicious strikes.

PREDICTION: Demian Maia via Submission Round 3

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