UFC FIGHT NIGHT (AFTERNOON) SATURDAY – Ecochard’s full card preview including Arlovski vs. Barnett

By Matt Ecochard, MMATorch contributor

Josh Barnett (photo credit Jayne Kamin-Oncea © USA Today Sports)

Saturday’s UFC Fight Night airs on UFC Fight Pass. The following is a preview of all scheduled fights with predictions.

Martin Buschkamp (9-0, 1 NC) vs. Alex Enlund (14-2, 1 NC) – Featherweight Bout:

Two fighters are making their UFC debuts here. Martin Buschkamp looks to be a great rear-naked choke artist with the majority of his wins coming from the first round this way. His striking looks a little green as he just lunges forward, overly aggressive in hopes to get close by to get a takedown. Alex Enlund also favors his grappling, but has shown more diversity in his submissions. If this fight stays standing up, look for Enlund to dictate the pace, but when the fight hits the mat enjoy watching entertaining exchanges.

Prediction: Alex Enlund via Submission Round 2.

Rustam Khabilov (19-3) vs. Leandro Silva (19-3-1, 1 NC) – Lightweight Bout:

Rustam Khabilov has fought higher levels of opponents than Leandro Silva has in their respective careers. Rustam has succeeded against the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Yancy Medeiros and Norman Parke; Leandro Silva has beaten Charlie Brenneman and Efrain Escudero as his biggest names. Leandro Silva may have the better submission game but he seems all too happy to stand even when he has the better advantage on the ground. Khabilov has the much crisper striking and a mean Sambo game to really control this fight. Silva has never been finished so expect the decision here.

Prediction: Rustam Khabilov via Unanimous Decision

Scott Askham (14-2) vs. Jack Hermansson (13-2) – Middleweight Bout:

In an entertaining 185 lb. fight, Scott Askham takes on the debuting Jack Hermansson. Askham has shown slick striking skills mixing in lots of different kicking techniques. Hermansson looks very smooth on his feet with constant movement and a strong jab that has caused trouble for a few of his opponents. Both fighters don’t have the best takedown defense but have decent submission games. The finish is always the goal with these two fighters, so in a battle of two similar fighters who wins? Jack Hermansson looks to keep his hype train rolling in his debut and if he fights smart and get his jab started.

Prediction: Jack Hermansson via Split Decision

Jarjis Danho (6-1, 1 NC) vs. Christian Colombo (8-1) – Heavyweight Bout

Jarjis Danho lost his UFC debut due to a majority decision when the fight was stopped due to the numerous cup shots he had received. Danho looked okay but not great up until that point. Christian Colombo has only had one fight in the last three years and that was against a debuting fighter. Danho looks to be the more serious mixed martial artist at this point in his career compared to Colombo. Colombo has a punchers chance at this weight class but that may be just about it.

Prediction: Jarjis Danho via TKO Round 1

Taylor Lapilus (10-2) vs. Leandro Issa (13-5) – Bantamweight Bout:

Taylor Lapilus and Leandro Issa have been equally unimpressive in their UFC careers thus far. Neither man has been able to beat a fighter who would be recognizable to an average MMA fan. Lapilus has a solid submission game and that is about all he brings to the table. Leandro Issa isn’t much different, but his Jiu-Jitsu pedigree is much higher. This fight won’t see the judges’ scorecards and the loser may be cut.

Prediction: Leandro Issa via submission Round 2

Ashlee Evans-Smith (4-1) vs. Veronica Macedo (5-0) – Women’s Bantamweight Bout:

Ashlee Evans-Smith has good takedown skills and proves she can finish the fight when she gets on top. She should’ve lost her last fight against Marion Reneau, but poor judges gave her the fight. Veronica Macedo has solid stand-up and has shown explosiveness in her movements. There are two issues that keep me from thinking she will remain undefeated after this fight. The first issue is that she will give up 5 inches of height against someone who has good grappling skills. My second concern is that the quality of her opponents hasn’t been any killers at this stage and while I wouldn’t label Evans-Smith a killer she is a certainly a step up in competition. The fight will definitely be competitive, but I think Macedo loses a close decision.

Prediction: Ashlee Evans-Smith via Split Decision

Peter Sobotta (15-5-1) vs. Nicolas Dalby (14-1-1) – Welterweight Bout:

In what should be a very even matchup, the well-versed Peter Sobotta will be taking on hard hitting wrestler in Nicolas Dalby. Sobotta will be looking to get back on track after a rough loss to Kyle Noke. The most success for Sobotta stems from when he can take the back of an opponent as his seemingly favorite submission is a rear naked choke.  Dalby is coming off a loss to Zak Cummings, but will try to land a strong strike to wobble Sobotta, take him down and try to pound him out on the ground. The most likely outcome would be Dalby finding his range and outworking the savvy veteran in Peter Sobotta. Neither man has passed any stern test in their UFC careers so it is hard to gauge where either lays in the division.

Prediction: Nicolas Dalby via Split Decision

Jessin Ayari (15-3) vs. Jim Wallhead (29-9) – Welterweight Bout:

This next bout once again has two UFC newcomers. Jessin Ayari is a young prospect fighting out of Germany and is riding a six fight winning streak coming into this debut. Ayari what seems to be a great overall game and prefers to go for the guillotine or rear-naked choke when he has an opponent scrambling out of position. Jim Wallhead has seen more professional action than Ayari but has lost against most recognizable names from Bellator and BAMMA promotions. He has some heavy hands for the weight class. Ayari seems to be the pick as he is 10 years younger than his foe and is the taller fighter as well. Look for him to come out and grab a submission in the first 10 minutes.

Prediction: Jessin Ayari via Submission Round 2

Nick Hein (13-2, 1 NC) vs. Tae Hyun Bang (18-9) – Lightweight Bout:

The UFC looks to put one of most Germany’s most popular on the main portion of this event with Nick Hein setting his sights on Tae Hyun Bang. Nick Hein is a stocky Judo practitioner who likes to keep the fight standing and strikes with ferocity. Tae Hyun Bang is not a slouch on the feet but can’t deal with solid grapplers. Hein has shown holes in his game, but I wouldn’t expect Bang to take advantage of them. Look for the fighters to feel it out on the feet in a somewhat cautionary battle, but if Nick Hein ever gets into any trouble he will use his Judo to control the clinch and takedown Tae Hyun Bang and control him for a decision.

Prediction: Nick Hein via Unanimous Decision

Ryan Bader (21-5) vs. Ilir Latifi (13-4, 1 NC) – Light Heavyweight Bout:

Ryan Bader has been the ultimate gatekeeper, just on the outskirts of a title fight, but never fulfilling his dream. He has heavy hands and really good wrestling, but has always had issues when he faces stronger, more technical strikers than himself. Ilir Latifi is slowly coming into his own in the UFC after debuting on short notice against Gegard Mousasi. Winning five of his last six, Latifi looks to continue his path into a contender. He possesses the problems that Ryan Bader has struggled with in his high profile fights, good wrestling himself with heavier hands. Bader after being knocked out by Anthony Johnson will look to be smarter about his takedowns. Latifi will be trying to stuff them and keep him at striking distance. Look for Latifi to continue his rise in the rankings here in a bit of an upset victory.

Prediction: Ilir Latifi via KO Round 1.

Alexander Gustafsson (16-4) vs. Jan Blachowicz (19-5) – Light Heavyweight Bout:

Alexander Gustafsson is entering this fight in need of a win to stay relevant in the Light Heavyweight division. His only losses have been to the elite of the division (Jon Jones, Anthony Johnson and Daniel Cormier). Going just 1-3 in his last four, you would think he would be in danger of being cut, but he will probably be safe due to who the losses came against. He has strong takedowns and takedown defense, crisp striking and nasty clinch knees and elbows.

Jan Blachowicz is getting the opportunity of a lifetime to face a former contender in Gustafsson. Blachowicz hasn’t been the most impressive, losing a pair of decisions but beating Ilir Latifi in his debut and Igor Pokrajac in his most recent bout. His wrestling needs some improvement but has fairly technical Kickboxing skills. This fight might be too much too soon for him however.

The result seems clear here, Gustafsson is the more elite mixed-martial artist overall. He has superior grappling skills and I’d even say slicker striking with lots of movement. Gustafsson was the closest fighter to defeating Jon Jones and that doesn’t just change in a couple of years. Anything Blachowicz can hit him with he should be able to eat and come forward and earn the finish within the distance.

Prediction: Gustafsson via Submission Round 2

Andrei Arlovski (25-12, 1 NC) vs. Josh Barnett (34-8) – Heavyweight Main Event (5 Rounds):

The heavyweights are throwing down in a five round main event for the German crowd. Andrei Arlovski had been on a comeback career path in the UFC until he met the now champion in Stipe Miocic and then the current challenger for the title in Alistair Overeem. His problems have come against elite strikers, but he holds some strong hands with tight striking. He loves to get into firefights with opponents, but sometimes his chin just can’t hold up now that he has so much wear and tear on his body.

Josh Barnett has had mixed results in his seconds UFC run. Beating Frank Mir and Roy Nelson leaves him in the top 10, but losses to Travis Browne and Ben Rothwell leave him looking into the top 5 of the heavyweight division. His catch wrestling is unique of any other UFC heavyweight and allows him to set up submissions, making him a dangerous opponent for anyone on the mat. His striking has improved over time, but he doesn’t want to stand and trade with Arlovski.

If this fight stays standing up the easy pick is Andrei Arlovski, but much like last week’s main event, what is the chance that Barnett doesn’t take Arlovski down over the course of a five round fight. Barnett weighs more and is the more competent grappler. Arlovski has never been submitted in his 38 fight career and Barnett hasn’t won by submission in a while, but I believe he is overdue for one. A bold statement, but my prediction is he gets it done.

Prediction: Josh Barnett via Submission Round 3

(Matthew Ecochard of New Jersey contributes fight card preview articles to MMATorch. He became fascinated watching MMA starting with UFC 111: St. Pierre vs. Hardy and hasn’t missed an event since. UFC, Bellator, Invicta FC, and more, he watches as many MMA events as possible. He is an environmentalist when I’m not overly-obsessed with watching MMA or WWE.)

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