UFC FIGHT NIGHT 96 – Ecochard’s Preview & Predictions: Lineker vs. Dodson, Brooks vs. Oliviera, Ottow vs. Burkman

By Matt Ecochard, MMATorch contributor

Two former flyweights throw down in the bantamweight main event for this Saturday’s UFC Fight Night. Enjoy the following preview and predictions for the night’s entire card.

Fight Pass Early Prelims

Kelly Faszholz (3-1) vs. Ketlen Vieira (6-0) – Women’s Bantamweight Bout:

There is not much too go off of with these two fighters who are early in their careers. Faszholz’s only loss was her UFC debut to Lauren Murphy by TKO. All of Faszholz’s wins are by submission, in her match against Murphy she was outmatched by the more experienced fighter and superior striker. Ketlen Vieira is making her UFC debut here and she looks to be a well rounded prospect finishing 5 of her 6 wins. Neither fighter has beaten any real killers and this will certainly be the biggest test of Ketlen Vieira’s career, but it seems like her overall game might be more polished than Faszholz’s.

Prediction: Ketlen Vieira via Unanimous Decision

Cody East (12-2) vs. Curtis Blaydes (5-1) – Heavyweight Bout:

Cody East lost his UFC debut to Walt Harris by TKO; Curtis Blaydes lost his via doctor stoppage against Francis Ngannou. Both of these fighters hit very, very hard so it stands to pass that this will likely end via TKO or KO and won’t see the judges’ hands. East had actually gotten finished against Walt Harris, while Blaydes’ loss was due to the doctor getting involved. Blaydes is athletic and I believe he will use his larger size to impose his will and finish off East in the 1st round.

Prediction: Curtis Blaydes via TKO Round 1

Jonathan Wilson (7-1) vs. Ion Cutelaba (11-2, 1 NC) – Light Heavyweight Bout

These two light heavyweights are looking to rebound and get back in the win column after disappointing losses last time out. Both men have heavy hands, but have some small differences that make this fight a hard one to pick. Wilson seems to be the more athletic fighter, but gassed  very hard against Henrique da Silva last fight. Cutelaba has a stronger ground game than Wilson and take a lot of punishment, but might be a little slower to the punch. This fight will either end in the first by KO for Wilson or Cutelaba will finish in the 2nd or 3rd. I think Cutelaba survives the early storm and finds a finish.

Prediction: Cutelaba via Submission Round 2

Nate Marquardt (37-16-2) vs. Tamdan McCrory (14-4) – Middleweight Bout

Nate Marquardt has had a long storied career, but he is definitely reaching the end of it. He hasn’t won two fights in a row since 2012. He has been knocked out or suffered a TKO in 4 of his last 7 bouts. Tamdan McCrory is looking to come make a name for himself off of Marquardt after suffering a quick KO loss against Krzysztof Jotko. Marquardt doesn’t use his wrestling anymore and McCrory is willing to keep  it on the feet. McCrory is the taller fighter by 4 inches and has a 4 inch reach advantage as well. He will likely get the KO here and Marquardt should most likely retire if he does so.

Prediction: Tamdan McCrory via TKO Round 1

Fox Sports 2 Prelims

Keita Nakamura (32-7-2, 1 NC) vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (15-5) – Welterweight Bout

The extremely experienced Keita Nakamura will be taking on the strong Brazilian striker in Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos. Nakamura is extremely durable and his only KO loss was 8 years ago in Japan. The submission wrestling is strong in Nakamura as he wears out fighters and finishes quite often via rear-naked choke. Dos Santos is 1-1 in the UFC so far. He possesses strong Muay-Thai and is quite durable too, but leaves himself open to submissions. Nakamura should be able to take advantage here and get another submission victory.

Prediction: Nakamura via Submission Round 3

Shamil Abdurakhimov (16-3) vs. Walt Harris (8-4) – Heavyweight Bout

Walt Harris is still learning in his young 5-year MMA career and he looks to show off some new skills against veteran Shamil Abdurakhimov. Harris is the taller, longer fighter with a southpaw stance and massive athleticism for his size. If Harris has started to fully utilize his size, power and speed with technique he could become a top contender  (he is most likely not there yet, but he could be someday). Abdurakhimov is primarily a striker but has decent grappling skills and is tough as nails. He isn’t a big, one shot KO type of heavyweight, but is more so the gritty will finish you off in the 3rd round type. Abdurakhimov should be the favorite here with his better overall game and more experience, but I feel like Harris might finally be putting something together here and will see and early finish in his favor.

Prediction: Walt Harris via KO Round 1

(#12) Hacran Dias (23-4-1) vs. Andre Fili (15-4) – Featherweight Bout:

Hacran Dias takes on the always exciting (late replacement) Andre Fili. Dias has struggled against the best of the best in the featherweight division and has gone to decision in every single one of his UFC bouts. Andre Fili is an action oriented fighter, only seeing one decision in the UFC thus far. Fili has lost to some strong competition as well, but has finished impressively as well. Fili is taking the bigger step up in competition here, but has the height and reach to make things interesting for Dias. The late replacement might actually help him out here too, I believe Fili wins this fight and breaks into the top 15 at 145 lbs.

Prediction: Andre Fili via Split Decision.

Luis Henrique da Silva (11-0) vs. Joachim Christensen (13-3) – Light Heavyweight Bout:

Luis Henrique da Silva is an absolute monster. He has finished all of his 11 fights with 10 by KO or TKO and 1 by submission (due to punches). Joachim Christensen is making his debut here and seems to be a durable fighter with a solid overall game, currently riding a 5 fight win streak. Until something else happens in one of his fights, it seems like the pick has to be da Silva via TKO.

Prediction: Luis Henrique da Silva via TKO Round 2

Fox Sports 1 Main Card

(#9) Louis Smolka (11-1) vs. Brandon Moreno (11-3) – Flyweight Bout:

The ever improving Louis Smolka will be taking on short notice newcomer Brandon Moreno to kick off the main card on Fox Sports 1. Louis Smolka has really improved over the last couple of years, showing off some solid Judo, submission and striking skills. Brandon Moreno will be making his UFC debut on short notice against a ranked opponent here, but he is riding an 8 fight win streak which should bring in some solid confidence. He showed off some very impressive skills in his loss on the current season of TUF. His striking should be the most dangerous thing for Smolka to deal with. Smolka is in no win situation, if he loses he will dropped lower into the rankings and if he wins he just gets another win without much fanfare. This should be a fight of the night contender, but Smolka should be more polished overall and take it to the ground.

Prediction: Louis Smolka via Submission Round 2

Joshua Burkman (28-13, 1 NC) vs. Zak Ottow (13-3) – Lightweight Bout:

A fading Josh Burkman is taking on another late replacement newcomer in Zak Ottow. Burkman has not looked like himself since rejoining the UFC, going just 1-3, 1 NC in his appearances thus far. Zak Ottow looks to be a lower tier fighter who is getting a shot at the big leagues. He has amassed a pretty solid record, but about half of his wins come from pretty low level competition. Ottow will definitely be looking for the submission to get a victory against the veteran. Burkman should be too well experienced and savvy to be taken out by a comparatively less experienced fighter.

Prediction: Joshua Burkman via Unanimous Decision

(#11) Will Brooks (18-1) vs. Alex Oliveira (14-3-1, 1 NC) – Lightweight Bout:

Will Brooks has looked the part of a champion so far in his career and is looking to continue that rise to contender status in the UFC against Alex Oliveira. Will Brooks was lightweight champion in Bellator MMA beating Michael Chandler twice, Dave Jansen and Marcin Held, some very stiff competition. He has some power behind his very technical kick-boxing skills and has wrestling that is good enough to stifle most others’ offense. Alex Oliveira failed his test to take a step up in competition against Donald Cerrone. Oliveira has decent standup, but it will not be as high of a level as Brooks’. Oliveira’s reach will help him here, but Brooks will most likely use some leg kicks and get into the pocket where reach won’t play too much of a role. Brooks will win here and get a ranked opponent next time out.

Prediction: Will Brooks via Unanimous Decision

(#3) John Lineker (28-7) vs. John Dodson (19-7) – Bantamweight Main Event (5 Rounds):

This main event should be contender for fight of the year for as long as it lasts. Two former flyweights who both feel their home should be at bantamweight now. Lineker was having trouble making the harder weight cut, failing to do so 4 times. The skill has always been there, but being that this safer weight has really done him well and it appears the pieces are being placed together for a run at the title. Lineker has some of the heaviest hands at 125 and 135 lbs, knocking out Michael McDonald in an impressive fashion his last time out.

John Dodson’s only two UFC losses are both to Demetrious Johnson. Dodson also has strong punching power, but his speed is what makes him an incredibly dangerous fighter. In his last fight, Dodson absolutely blew through Manvel Gamuryan. Dodson fights out of Jackson’s MMA and his skill set is always evolving training with one of the best camps in MMA.

This fight should be an interesting one with both men willing to stand and trade. This will mostly be a stand up war. Power vs. speed will be the tale here. Dodson will be moving quickly in and out trying to land a few punches for every attempt Lineker throws, but Lineker is just so accurate and has looked like a new man with some old tricks at 135 lbs. The longer the fight goes on it favors Dodson, as his gas tank is likely larger, but Lineker will find his range and timing early and land a finishing blow to be the first man to stop Dodson.

Prediction: John Lineker via KO Round 1

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